Iran General NewsUS still favors diplomacy to settle Iran nuclear issue:...

US still favors diplomacy to settle Iran nuclear issue: envoy

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ImageAFP: The US ambassador to the UN said Friday said Washington favored diplomacy in the Iranian nuclear crisis for now despite reports of Israeli preparations for a possible air strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

ImageUNITED NATIONS (AFP) — The US ambassador to the UN said Friday said Washington favored diplomacy in the Iranian nuclear crisis for now despite reports of Israeli preparations for a possible air strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

"We're in the phase of diplomacy, we want a diplomatic settlement of this issue," Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters when asked to react to media reports that recent military exercises by the Jewish state were a possible practice for a strike against Iran.

"I saw the article in paper today," Khalilzad said. "You know our view with regard to Iran, which is that it would be unacceptable for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons."

"Right now we are in the phase of diplomacy, that's what we are pushing for, we want a diplomatic solution to this problem. The ball is frankly in Iran's court," he added.

The New York Times Friday quoted US officials as saying that a major military exercise carried out by Israel earlier this month seemed to be a practice for any potential strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.

US President George W. Bush, who was not expected to respond publicly to the news report, said repeatedly on his just-completed trip to Europe that he prefers a diplomatic solution but has not ruled out using force.

At the State Department in Washington, spokesman Sean McCormack said that it was not yet at "the point that Iran and this regime have changed its behavior."

US officials "are hopeful that there are those reasonable officials within the Iranian government who will see that continuing on the course that they are on — continuing their enrichment and reprocessing-related activities — in the face of the demands of the international community," McCormack said.

It was "not a good road for the Iranian government to go down, because they will continue to incur greater and greater costs as a result of actions by the international community," he said.

A Pentagon official briefed on the exercise said a goal of the practice was to send a message that the Jewish state was prepared to act militarily if diplomatic efforts failed to halt Tehran's production of bomb-grade uranium.

But Iran warned its arch-enemy Israel Friday of a "strong blow" if it resorts to force.

"If enemies especially Israelis and their supporters in the United States would want to use a language of force, they should rest assured that they will receive a strong blow in the mouth," senior cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said in his Friday prayers sermon.

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