/ 10 July 2008

Rice: We will defend allies from Iran

The United States will defend its allies against Iranian aggression, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday, a day after Iran test-fired nine missiles it said could hit Israeli and US bases.

Washington suspects Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb under the cover of a civilian atomic energy programme. Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful.

”We are also sending a message to Iran that we will defend American interests and … the interests of our allies,” she told a news conference in the ex-Soviet state of Georgia.

”We take very, very strongly our obligation to help our allies defend themselves and no one should be confused about that,” Rice said after meeting Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Iran rebuffed Washington’s call to halt further missile tests by later announcing night time manoeuvres. The tests rattled global oil markets pushing up the price of oil.

On Thursday Iranian satellite channel Press TV reported in a brief headline without giving details that ”Iran’s Revolutionary Guards test more missiles.” State radio gave a similar report.

The United States has said it will not rule out military action against Iran but says that it is committed to seeking a diplomatic solution to the nuclear row.

Rice said that the US is ”working closely” with its friends in the region to make sure they are capable of defending themselves.

She said the development of a US missile defence shield, which is to be partly based in the Czech Republic and Poland, would help dampen any threat of an attack from Iran.

”We also are able to look to the future of a missile defence system that will make it more difficult for Iran to threaten [and] and be bellicose and say terrible things because their missiles won’t work,” she said.

Russia, sensitive to any Western military build-up near its borders, says the missile shield is a threat to its security and has vowed to respond with unidentified military means if the shield is deployed. – Reuters