U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on Tuesday reiterated the Bush administration's policy of using diplomacy, not force, to get Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions, but he refused to comment on the announcement by Iran's president that Iran has successfully enriched uranium.
Secretary Rumsfeld made it clear to reporters he had nothing to say about Tuesday's announcement by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Iran has enriched uranium to a level used in nuclear power plants. "I'd rather wait and see what our experts say about it. I've not seen the statement, I've not had a chance to analyze anything that they've said and nor have I had a chance to talk to the people who have the responsibility in the United States government for making judgments and assessments with respect to things like that," he said.
Iran insists its nuclear intentions are peaceful and its program is only for making electricity.
As for published media reports saying the Pentagon has been working on contingency plans for possible military strikes to force Tehran to abandon its nuclear program, Secretary Rumsfeld said he had nothing to add to comments already made by President Bush. "I think the president handled it properly. The United States of America is on a diplomatic track. That is the president's decision, that is where our European allies are. There is obviously concern about Iran. It's a country that supports terrorists. It's a country that has indicated an interest in having weapons of mass destruction. So, obviously the president has indicated his concern about the country. But it is simply not useful to get into fantasy land," he said.
While President Bush has repeatedly said the United States prefers to use diplomacy in dealing with Iran's nuclear program, administration officials also say that no options have been ruled out, including military measures.
On Iraq, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, commented on recently published articles about the responsibility of senior military officers to speak out honestly about their opinions regarding the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
General Pace, who was standing alongside Rumsfeld, strongly denied that U.S. military officials were prohibited from giving their opinions, for or against, the idea of invading Iraq. "We had then and we have now every opportunity to speak our minds. And if we do not, shame on us because the opportunity is there. It is elicited from us and we are expected to. And the plan that was executed was developed by military officers, presented by military officers, questioned by civilians as they should, revamped by military officers, and blessed by the senior military leadership," he said.
Secretary Rumsfeld said recent criticism by former high level Pentagon officials was normal and to be expected. He also strongly denied that a sharply critical article written by retired Marine Lieutenant General Greg Newbold, who resigned in part because of his opposition to the Iraq war, was having any effect on the secretary's ability to carry out his job.
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