Iran Nuclear NewsOfficials downplay military options against Iran

Officials downplay military options against Iran

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ImageAP: Using U.S. military might to coerce Iran to halt its nuclear program would yield only temporary results, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday, adding that sanctions make more sense.

The Associated Press

By LOLITA C. BALDOR

ImageWASHINGTON (AP) — Using U.S. military might to coerce Iran to halt its nuclear program would yield only temporary results, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday, adding that sanctions make more sense.

The only way to eliminate Iran's determination to have nuclear weapons is for Tehran to make that decision itself, Gates told Senate appropriators.

"Even a military attack will only buy us time and send the program deeper and more covert," he said.

Instead, he said that the United States and its allies must convince Iran that its nuclear ambitions will spark an arms race that will leave the country less secure.

Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. should work with its allies on tougher international sanctions. Gates also said that the U.S. should pursue partnerships with Russia on missile defense programs in the region to further isolate Iran and to give Tehran economic and diplomatic reasons to voluntarily abandon its nuclear interests.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said that the U.S. should also close loopholes that subsidiaries of American companies exploit to do business with Iran.

Clinton said the U.S. continues to work with allies on increased international sanctions, and agreed that the U.S should insure that "we have our own house in order as to any of the sanctions that we should be implementing going forward."

Iran has repeatedly denied it is seeking to build a nuclear weapon and is only engaged in a civilian atomic energy program. The Obama administration has made overtures to the Iranians, appealing to Tehran to cooperate in talks over the country's feared nuclear buildup.

Congress is taking up a bipartisan proposal which would give the Obama administration more leverage over Iran by toughening economic sanctions on foreign oil and shipping firms that aid Tehran.

Experts believe that Iran is three to four years away, some think sooner, from having the capability to make nuclear weapons. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — as well as Germany have offered the country incentives to stop reprocessing uranium that could fuel a nuclear bomb.

Iran has thus far ignored the offer and continues to amass enriched uranium, sparking grave fears in Israel, which has not ruled out military strikes to deal with the threat, the broader Middle East and elsewhere.

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