AFP: The United States will continue to pursue diplomatic and economic means to force Iran to halt its nuclear drive, but “all options are on the table,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday. WASHINGTON, Sept 16, 2007 (AFP) – The United States will continue to pursue diplomatic and economic means to force Iran to halt its nuclear drive, but “all options are on the table,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday.
Asked on Fox News if President George W. Bush would consult Congress before launching any strikes on Iran, Gates said he would not be drawn on “hypotheticals about what he may or may not do.”
“I will tell you that I think the administration believes at this point that continuing to try and deal with the Iranian threat, the Iranian challenge through diplomatic and economic means is by far the preferrable approach,” he said.
Iran vehemently denies Western allegations it is seeking an atomic weapon, saying its nuclear drive is aimed at providing electricity for a growing population whose fossil fuels will one day run out.
“We always say all options are on the table,” Gates said. “But clearly, the diplomatic and economic approach is the one we’re pursuing.”
Washington also accuses Iran of providing sophisticated weaponry to Shiite militias in Iraq, and Syria of turning a blind eye to infiltration of its borders by Sunni insurgents, charges both governments deny.
Announcing a limited pullout of troops from Iraq on Thursday, Bush demanded that Iran and Syria end attempts to “undermine” the government of insurgency-wracked Iraq.
But the Pentagon chief ruled out using US forces to chase Shiite extremists in Iraq over the Iranian border.
“First of all, there’s a question of just how much intelligence we have in terms of specific locations and so on,” he said on Fox.
“But beyond that, I think that the general view is we can manage this problem through better operations inside Iraq and on the border with Iran — that we can take care of the Iranian threat … inside the borders of Iraq.
“Don’t need to go across the border into Iran.”