US denies report on plan to attack Iran

The White House on Tuesday flatly denied an Army Radio report that claimed US President George W. Bush intends to attack Iran before the end of his term. It said that while the military option had not been taken off the table, the Administration preferred to resolve concerns about Iran’s push for a nuclear weapon “through peaceful diplomatic means.”

Army Radio had quoted a top official in Jerusalem claiming that a senior member in the entourage of President Bush, who concluded a trip to Israel last week, had said in a closed meeting here that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were of the opinion that military action against Iran was called for.

The official reportedly went on to say that “the hesitancy of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice” was preventing the administration from deciding to launch such an attack on the Islamic Republic for the time being.

The Army Radio report, which was quoted by The Jerusalem Post and resonated widely, stated that according to assessments in Israel, the recent turmoil in Lebanon, where Hizbullah has de facto established control of the country, was advancing an American attack.

Bush, the official reportedly said, considered Hizbullah’s show of strength to constitute evidence of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s growing influence. In Bush’s view, the official said, “the disease must be treated – not its symptoms.”

However, the White House on Tuesday afternoon dismissed the story. In a statement, it said that “[the US] remain[s] opposed to Iran’s ambitions to obtain a nuclear weapon. To that end, we are working to bring tough diplomatic and economic pressure on the Iranians to get them to change their behavior and to halt their uranium enrichment program.

It went on: “As the President has said, no president of the United States should ever take options off the table, but our preference and our actions for dealing with this matter remain through peaceful diplomatic means. Nothing has changed in that regard.”

In an address to the Knesset during his visit here last week, Bush said that “the president of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages.”

“America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions,” Bush said. “Permitting the world’s leading sponsor of terror to possess the world’s deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”
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