Iran Nuclear NewsPanetta: Military a U.S. option on Iran

Panetta: Military a U.S. option on Iran

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UPI: Washington is poised with military options to destroy Iran’s nuclear program if economic sanctions don’t work, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said.

United Press International

JERUSALEM, Aug. 2 (UPI) — Washington is poised with military options to destroy Iran’s nuclear program if economic sanctions don’t work, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said.

Panetta’s comments in Israel came amid deepening concern in Washington that Israel will launch a unilateral strike on Iran — and as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said time for peaceful resolution was “running out.”

“We will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Period. And we will exert all options in the effort to ensure that that does not happen,” Panetta said after meeting with Netanyahu, the latest Obama administration official pressing Israel to give economic sanctions more time to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions.

Iran insists its nuclear program is strictly peaceful.

Panetta said after a separate meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak his responsibilities included providing President Barack Obama “with a full range of options, including military options, should diplomacy fail.”

Two days earlier, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said during an Israeli visit “any and all measures” should be considered to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu, who met with Romney Monday, said Wednesday that sanctions, diplomacy and declarations of a willingness to take military action as a last resort had not convinced the Iranians to stop their nuclear program.

“Right now the Iranian regime believes that the international community does not have the will to stop its nuclear program,” he said in Jerusalem. “This must change and it must change quickly because time to resolve this issue peacefully is running out.”

Obama administration officials have told The New York Times Israeli officials are less confrontational in private than in public and Netanyahu understands the consequences of military action for Israel, the United States and the region.

They say they know Netanyahu has to maintain the credibility of his threat to keep up pressure on Washington to escalate sanctions and develop military plans.

The U.S. Senate Wednesday night unanimously approved harsher economic sanctions on Iran and sent the measure to Obama for his signature.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the stronger restrictions were needed because Iran “continues to defy the international community with its nuclear weapons program,” Roll Call reported.

The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent, the Washington publication said.

“This legislation expands our existing sanctions on Iran’s energy sector, and imposes new sanctions targeting shipping and insurance,” Reid said. “Iran continues to try to evade existing sanctions. But this legislation, in combination with newly announced measures by the Obama administration, closes loopholes and stops the use of front companies, or financial institutions to get around international sanctions.”

The House of Representatives passed the compromise measure earlier.

Panetta was to arrive in Jordan Thursday to meet with senior officials about Iran, Syria and other regional concerns, the Pentagon said.

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