Bush: Iran attack reports 'wild speculation'

The United States wants to settle the Iran nuclear crisis through diplomacy, President George Bush said on Monday, describing reports of plans to attack Iran as “wild speculation”.

While the White House is still warning Iran about its uranium enrichment, which Washington and its allies believe hides a nuclear weapons programme, the administration went out of its way on Monday to play down reports of planning for military strikes.

“The doctrine of prevention is to work together to prevent the Iranians from having a nuclear weapon,” Bush said at Johns Hopkins University in Washington.

“I know we hear in Washington ‘prevention means force’,” he added. “In this case, it means diplomacy, by the way.
I read the articles in the newspapers this weekend—it was wild speculation.”

White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said, however, that Bush is not taking the military option off the table.

The United Nations Security Council set a 30-day deadline on March 29 for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment activities, which Washington and its allies believes hides a nuclear weapons programme.

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed again on Monday not to give in to the Security Council demand, and many diplomats say the UN may be forced to take action.

The US has let Britain, France and Germany take the lead in international negotiations with Tehran, which insists that its nuclear programme is peaceful.

Bush said that the international community is “making pretty good progress” despite opposition from China and Russia to talk of sanctions against Iran. The US leader put Iran with Iraq and North Korea in an “axis of evil” in a speech in 2003. “I meant it,” he declared.

“I saw there is a problem. And now many others have come to the conclusion that the Iranians should not have a nuclear weapon.”

The Washington Post newspaper and New Yorker magazine reported at the weekend about plans for possible military strikes.

The New Yorker said the US administration plans a bombing campaign against Iran, including the use of bunker-buster nuclear bombs to destroy the suspected main Iranian nuclear weapons facility.

The Washington Post said Bush is studying options for military strikes as part of a broader strategy of coercive diplomacy to pressure Iran over its nuclear programme.

Citing unnamed US officials and independent analysts, the newspaper said no attack appeared likely in the short term, but officials were using the threat to convince Iran that Washington is serious.

Military experts said that any military strike would be full of risk. European leaders have also spoken out against any immediate military threat in the dispute.—AFP

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