AFP: After weeks of escalating US rhetoric on Iran, the White House vowed Tuesday vowed to “pursue every possible diplomatic means” to defuse the volatile dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program. WASHINGTON (AFP) After weeks of escalating US rhetoric on Iran, the White House vowed Tuesday vowed to “pursue every possible diplomatic means” to defuse the volatile dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program.
Spokeswoman Dana Perino sought to quiet fears that US President George W. Bush plans to attack the Islamic republic over its refusal to freeze sensitive nuclear work that can lead to the development of atomic weapons.
“There’s no reason for people to think that the president is about to attack Iran. I think that we need to make that clear,” she said. “He doesn’t want people to fear that, because what he is doing is pursuing a diplomatic track.”
Perino pointed to Bush’s meetings next week with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel as evidence of diplomatic efforts to convince Iran to bow to international pressure over its nuclear program.
“He believes it’s important for him to pursue every possible diplomatic means in order to persuade Iran to stop its pursuit of a nuclear weapon,” said the spokeswoman. Tehran denies seeking nuclear weapons.
Asked whether she was sure that Bush was not about to strike Iran, Perino replied: “I’m positive of that, and we’re pursuing the diplomatic track.”
“It’s not the fault of the United States that we’re in this position. It’s the recalcitrance of Iran, they were provided a means to have a civil nuclear program with the cooperation of the international community, and they walked away from the table,” she said.
“We would like to have them reverse that course, and (US) Secretary (of State Condoleezza) Rice said we would meet with her Iranian counterpart anytime, anywhere, but they’ve yet to take us up on that offer,” said Perino.
“That’s why we pursued the sanctions last week and we are pushing for a third resolution in the UN Security Council — (which will) probably take place next month,” she said.
On Monday, Washington bluntly dismissed the UN nuclear watchdog chief’s warning that there was no proof Iran seeks atomic weapons and that warlike US rhetoric was only adding “fuel to the fire” in the dispute.
The United States has sharply escalated its rhetoric against the Islamic Republic, while slapping a new set of sanctions on its Revolutionary Guards, accused of spreading weapons of mass destruction, and its elite Quds Force, which was designated as a supporter of terrorism.
Three Iranian state-owned banks were also blacklisted, along with IRGC-controlled companies and the logistics arm of Iran’s defense ministry.
On Friday, the White House rejected any parallels between its Iran rhetoric and the run up to the March 2003 Iraq invasion, adding it had not ruled out the use of force but was “very hopeful” of avoiding war.
In recent months, Bush has predicted “nuclear holocaust” and “World War III” if Tehran gets atomic weapons.
And Vice President Dick Cheney has warned of “serious consequences” for Iran if it defies global demands to freeze sensitive nuclear work — echoing the UN resolution that Washington says authorized war in Iraq.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, meanwhile, has said that the United States is conducting “routine” contingency planning for possible military options against Iran.
Despite already being under two rounds of UN sanctions, Tehran refuses to suspend its controversial program of uranium enrichment, which the West fears to be a cover for atomic weapons development, a charge Iran denies.