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Bush Downplays Speculation Of U.S. Military Strike On Iran

February 13, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has dismissed talk that his administration "wants to go to war" as "noise" from political opponents who do not understand his comprehensive strategy toward Tehran.

Bush made the statements in Washington on February 12.

The debate over the administration's plans for Iran is loudest in Washington, but often spills into the international press, as well.

And sometimes it involves alleged preparations by Israel to strike Iranian nuclear facilities by air.

On January 7, Britain's "Sunday Times" reported that Israel had drafted plans to destroy underground uranium-enrichment sites using bunker-busting bombs.

But the next day, other British papers cited Israeli officials as saying Israel wants to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis through diplomacy.

'Not Planning For War'

U.S. officials, too, have stressed diplomatic efforts to resolve the standoff.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on February 2 that "we are not planning for a war with Iran."

Still, the debate over alleged military planning persists.

U.S. Senator Joseph Biden (Democrat, Delaware), speaking to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on January 11, charged the administration with not having an adequate plan for Iraq, saying that, instead, it was making plans that could escalate the war "into Iran and Syria."

"We hoped and prayed we would hear of a plan that would have two features: begin to bring American forces home and a reasonable prospect of leaving behind a stable Iraq," Biden said. "Instead, we heard a plan to escalate the war. Not only in Iraq, but possibly into Iran and Syria, as well. I believe the president's strategy is not a solution, Secretary Rice. I believe it is a tragic mistake."

Democratic leaders of Congress have introduced non-binding resolutions demanding the president seek the legislature's authorization before using force against Iran.

'The Last Resort'

On February 12, the talk of war came up again -- this time in a U.S. television interview with Bush.

The president dismissed the speculation as "noise."

"I guess my reaction to all the noise about, you know, 'he wants to go to war' is, first of all, I don't understand the tactics, and I guess I would say it's political," Bush said. "On the other hand, I hope that the members of Congress, particularly in the opposition party, understand the grave danger of Iran having a nuclear weapon. Therefore, we all need to work together to solve the problem."

The president also said he had a comprehensive diplomatic strategy regarding Iran and "the military is the last resort to solve problems."

"All major problems should be solved diplomatically," Bush said. "In other words, the military is the last resort to solve problems. And I believe we still have the capacity to solve this issue diplomatically, because a lot of the world now understands the dangers of Iran having a nuclear weapon. And so we're working toward that end, and we're pressuring the regime through diplomatic channels."

In part, it may come from the administration's refusal to rule out force as an option. It also may come from military steps Washington has taken in recent weeks to increase psychological pressure on Iran.

That includes this month's dispatch of a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf and recent arrests of Iranians in Iraq, where Washington accuses Tehran of supplying technology and weapons being used by some Shi'ite groups against U.S. troops.

The international community is continuing its efforts to apply non-military pressure on Iran. On February 12, the European Union agreed to impose limited sanctions on Iran to pressure it to halt its uranium-enrichment program.

The sanctions were recommended by the UN Security Council in December. They include banning the sale of materials and technology suitable to Iran's nuclear and missile programs.

Tehran Rejects Allegations

Iran denies trying to develop nuclear arms.

In a separate interview with U.S. television network ABC on February 12, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad warned the United States that any attack on Iran would be "severely punished."

Ahmadinejad also rejected U.S. allegations that senior members of the Iranian government were responsible for supplying Shi'ite militants with sophisticated roadside bombs that have been used to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Amadinejad said peace and security would come to Iraq only when foreign forces leave the country.

Copyright (c) 2007 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

... Payvand News - 2/13/07 ... --

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