U.S. refuses to rule out Iran attack

REUTERS

Sun 12 September, 2004 13:08

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The United States is determined to stop Iran getting atomic weapons, and has signalled Washington will not rule out an attack if peaceful diplomacy failed to achieve this.

President George W. Bush's top official on nuclear on-proliferation, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, was asked during a brief visit to Israel if the United States could consider such an attack.

"President Bush is determined to try and find a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the problem of Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons," he said. "But we are determined that they are not going to achieve a nuclear weapons capability."

Iran says it is not trying to build an atom bomb and its nuclear programme is only for peaceful purposes.

But intelligence officials told Reuters in Vienna earlier this week they estimated it would take Iran a few months to a year to become nuclear capable -- meaning Tehran would be able to build a nuclear bomb without importing technology or experts.

As Iran's arch-enemy, Israel has p articular fear of Tehran developing nuclear arms. Israel is presumed to have its own atomic arsenal, but has a policy of neither confirming nor denying that.

Bolton's comments in Jerusalem came the day before a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is due to discuss a European resolution giving Tehran until November to come clean about its nuclear programme.

The United States wants Iran brought before the U.N. Security Council to face possible sanctions, but Bolton said Washington did not see such measures as automatic.

"The most important reason to take Iran to the Security Council is to heighten political pressure," he said.

"It is by no means inevitable that the Security Council has to impose economic sanctions or take other steps, that's why this really lies in Iran's hands."

Iran on Sunday rejected European demands it abandon sensitive nuclear activities but reiterated its readiness to provide assurances that its atomic ambitions are entirely peaceful.