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Sunday, February 18, 2007

President Bush Not Seeking A Military Showdown With IRAN?

Washington is not seeking a military confrontation with Tehran over its controversial nuclear programme, a senior Pentagon official told a Gulf security conference Saturday. “We are not seeking a military showdown with Iran.

We are not seeking military confrontation,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for the Middle East Mark Kimmitt told the conference in the United Arab Emirates capital. “We believe that diplomacy remains the best way to deal with the Iranian nuclear problem,” added Kimmitt, rejecting mounting accusations from some Democratic lawmakers that the Republican administration is seeking a new war in the region.

Kimmitt said Washington was concerned about the regional ambitions of Iran’s hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his efforts to take advantage of the turmoil in Iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003. “We have concerns about the hegemonic aspirations of Iran,” he said. “They seem to think that the removal of Saddam from power in Iraq and the absence of a regional counterweight provides them with the licence to expand their influence and presence throughout the Gulf.” Opening the one-day security conference, UAE Education Minister Sheikh Nahayan Mubarak al-Nahayan stressed the “importance for the whole world” of the security of the six oil-rich Gulf Arab states.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Saturday described Iran’s nuclear programme as its “future and destiny”, lashing out at critics who have said the drive could come at too great a cost. “Nuclear energy is the future and destiny of the country,” state television quoted Khamenei as saying in a speech in Tehran. The television said Khamenei “criticised some who, with superficial and narrow-minded views, say that nuclear energy is not necessary for the country at this cost.” His intervention comes as pressure mounts from Western countries for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can be used both to make the fuel for nuclear power stations and the core of an atomic weapon.
Khamenei said that Iran’s huge oil and gas reserves “would not last forever”.

“If a nation does not care about the future of its energy, it must remain dependent on the domineering powers,” he said in a reference to Western countries like the United States. The United States Friday applauded Japan and the EU for taking steps to conform with UN sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program and indicated it could seek a second UN resolution. “We want to take this opportunity to applaud the action taken today by the government of Japan, the steps they are taking to implement Security Council resolution 1737, which is designed to help prevent Iran from being able to enhance its continuous development of nuclear weapons,” State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey told reporters. The Japanese government decided Friday to freeze assets of 10 groups and 12 persons related to Iran’s nuclear and missile programs and decided to ban transfer of funds in connection with Iran’s sensitive nuclear and ballistic missile program. The measures will become effective Saturday.

Meanwhile, Austrian authorities have approved the export of 30,000 handguns to Iran, local media reported Friday, days after a report that sophisticated Austrian rifles were finding their way into the hands of Iraqi insurgents. Austrian media reported the pistols had been sold to Iran’s interior ministry, which is in charge of the police force. Austrian economic ministry officials told state radio that their ministry had approved the sale of the “Glock” pistols last month, saying Iranian authorities had provided documentary evidence that they would not be passed on to others.

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