Friday, April 21, 2006

US won't rule out N-strike on Iran

The Aurstralian:

April 20, 2006

WASHINGTON: The US has failed to secure international support for sanctions against Iran as President George W.Bush refused to rule out nuclear attacks if diplomacy failed to curb the Islamic Republic's atomic ambitions.

Mr Bush said he would discuss Iran's nuclear program with China's President Hu Jintao, who has been cool towards sanctions, during Mr Hu's US visit this week.

Asked if his options included planning for a nuclear strike, Mr Bush said: "All options are on the table. We want to solve this issue diplomatically and we're working hard to do so."

But a meeting of major powers in Moscow ended without consensus, despite strong US pressure for international sanctions. Washington believes Iran is trying to build bombs but Tehran insists it is only developing peaceful nuclear energy.

The meeting of deputy foreign ministers of the UN Security Council's permanent members - the US, Britain, France, China and Russia - plus Germany, was called after Tehran declared last week it had enriched uranium and was aiming for industrial-scale production.

US State Department official Nicholas Burns called for sanctions to be imposed on Iran, but Russia and China are resisting and no agreement was reached.

The US, which already enforces its own sweeping sanctions against Iran, wants the UN Security Council to be ready for strong diplomatic action, including measures such as imposing a freeze on assets and visa curbs on Iranian officials.

Tehran had vowed to continue its pursuit of nuclear technology, whatever the meeting's outcome. "Whatever the result of this meeting might be, Iran will not abandon its rights," an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack stressed that the goal of the Moscow meeting was to make preparations for decisions to be taken in a number of capitals.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is due to report at the end of the month on whether Iran is complying with UN demands that it halt uranium enrichment.

Iran's defiance of world pressure to halt its program drove oil prices to a record high of $US72.64 a barrel, raising fears of a cut in supplies from the world's fourth biggest exporter of crude.

Speculation about a US attack on Iran has mounted since a report in The New Yorker magazine said the Bush administration was considering the option of using tactical nuclear weapons to knock out Iran's underground nuclear sites.

Despite Mr Bush's assertions that all options were open in relation to Iran, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said last night that an invasion was not being considered.

"I've said constantly that Iran is not Iraq, nobody is talking about military invasion," Mr Blair told parliament.

China, which sent an envoy to Iran to try to defuse the stand-off, repeated a call for a negotiated solution. "We hope all sides will maintain restraint and flexibility," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing.

Russia restated its opposition to punitive action. "We are convinced that neither the sanctions route nor the use of force route will lead to a solution of this problem," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged Iran to suspend its research and development efforts to enrich uranium in a telephone conversation with Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Motaki on Monday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking at an annual military parade, said the army was ready to defend the nation. "It will cut off the hands of any aggressors," he said.

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