AFP: The United States has no plans to attack Iran and its beefed-up naval presence in the Gulf region is meant to keep the area peaceful, the chief of US naval operations said Monday. by Sami Zubeiri
ISLAMABAD, April 16, 2007 (AFP) – The United States has no plans to attack Iran and its beefed-up naval presence in the Gulf region is meant to keep the area peaceful, the chief of US naval operations said Monday.
Admiral Michael Mullen, who is visiting key US ally Pakistan for talks with officials, said efforts were focused on a diplomatic solution to resolve the ongoing row over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
“There is no plan for an attack on Iran,” Mullen told reporters after the talks.
“We’ve had a strong naval presence in this part of the world for many, many decades. We recently added some ships that are meant to provide reassurances to our friends, to show continued commitment to the area,” Mullen said.
“This is a vital region and the goal is to provide the strength and stability that we need to ensure that it remains quiet and peaceful.
“So there is absolutely no plan that I am aware of that involves an attack on Iran.”
The US has two aircraft carriers in the Gulf, the highest level US naval presence in the strategic oil shipping channel since the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
Tensions rose after Iran seized 15 British naval personnel in the northern Gulf on March 23 for illegally entering the country’s territorial waters. Britain said they were in Iraqi waters.
The group were freed two weeks later in what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said was an Easter “gift” to Britain, after some were shown on Iranian television making apparent confessions about their “mistake”.
Mullen slammed the Iranian seizure of the British sailors. “The incident took place in Iraqi waters. It is a matter of concern,” he said.
He reiterated US accusations that “technical materials” from Iran had been used to kill American soldiers in Iraq. “That concerns me greatly in terms of how Iran has supported our enemy in this world,” he said.
On Iran’s controversial refusal to suspend uranium enrichment work — a process the West fears could be used to make nuclear weapons — Mullen said he believed all efforts were focused “on diplomatic channels.”
Meanwhile the US naval chief said that the “biggest challenge” facing US forces remained the fight against terrorism, and strongly defended his country’s alliance with Pakistan.
President Pervez Musharraf dropped Pakistan’s support for the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and backed the US invasion of the neighbouring country following Al-Qaeda’s September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
The Taliban had harboured Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
“The biggest challenge that we are in at this time is the global war on terror which will last, I believe, for decades. It will not be short-term. That is why this partnership and relationship (with Pakistan) is so important,” he said.
He called Musharraf “a courageous partner in this global war on terror” and said he was “very encouraged” by the Pakistani leader’s achievements.