TEHRAN (FNA)- The White House denied on Tuesday a report by Israel’s Jerusalem Post that President George W. Bush intends to resort to military forces against Iran before the end of his term in January 2009.
A story in the Jerusalem Post quoted a “senior official” there as saying that Bush plans to attack Iran in the coming months. The story says the unidentified official claimed that a “senior member” of Bush’s traveling entourage made the statement about attacking Iran in a closed meeting. Bush was in Israel last week.
The article also says the unnamed Bush official said that Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney “were of the opinion that military action was called for.”
“An article in today’s Jerusalem Post about the president’s position on Iran that quotes unnamed sources – quoting unnamed sources – is not worth the paper it is written on,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said in a statement.
“Let me respond by reaffirming the policy of the administration: We, along with our international allies who want peace in the Middle East, remain opposed to Iran’s ambitions to obtain a nuclear weapon,” Perino claimed. “To that end, we are working to bring tough diplomatic and economic pressure on the Iranians to get them to change their behavior and to halt their uranium enrichment program.”
Perino said the “president of the United States should never take options off the table, but our preference and our actions for dealing with this matter remain through peaceful diplomatic means. Nothing has changed in that regard.”
This is while US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday rebuffed calls for diplomatic engagement with Iran.
Speaking before the defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Gates stressed that talks with Iran would prove futile as Iran under President Ahmadinejad has experienced “a resurgence of the original hardline views of the Islamic revolutionaries”.
The US is at loggerheads with Iran over Tehran’s independent and home-grown nuclear technology. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.
Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicted the recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one in February – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seemed to be completely irrational.
The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.
Tehran says it never worked on atomic weapons and wants to enrich uranium merely for civilian purposes, including generation of electricity, a claim substantiated by the NIE and IAEA reports.
Iran has insisted it would continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.
Not only many Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also many other world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports saying Iran had increased cooperation with the agency.
US President George W. Bush finished a tour of the Middle East in winter to gain the consensus of his Arab allies to unite against Iran.
But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.
Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran has lost steam due to the growing international vigilance, specially following the latest IAEA and US intelligence reports.