Bush dismisses Iran reports as 'wild speculation'
Washington, Apr 11: President George W Bush yesterday said that force is not necessarily required to thwart Tehran's nuclear ambitions and dismissed reports of plans for military strikes on Iran as 'wild speculation.' Bush, in his first comments on Iran since weekend news reports that the United States was considering military action, said diplomacy was his focus for keeping Tehran from developing nuclear arms.
The New Yorker magazine reported the administration was considering using tactical nuclear weapons against underground nuclear sites.
''We hear in Washington, you know, 'prevention means force,''' Bush told students and faculty at Johns Hopkins University. ''It doesn't mean force, necessarily. In this case, it means diplomacy.'' Bush joined aides in playing down prospects for military action against Iran, saying, ''I read the articles in the newspapers this weekend. It was just wild speculation.'' But he asserted: ''We do not want the Iranians to have a nuclear weapon, the capacity to make a nuclear weapon or the knowledge about how to make a nuclear weapon.'' White House spokesman Scott McClellan reiterated earlier that military force remains an option while insisting the priority was for reaching a diplomatic solution. Three years after toppling Saddam, the US military is still bogged down fighting an insurgency in Iraq, Iran's western neighbor.
The New Yorker article, by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, cited unidentified current and former officials saying Washington was stepping up planning for a possible bombing campaign against Iran.
The Washington Post published a similar account but said no attack was likely soon and many specialists harbor strong doubts about such action. The newspaper said the objective of the planning was to show Iran the seriousness of Washington's intentions.
Iran, responding to the reports, accused the United States of waging a ''psychological war'' out of desperation. Iran insists it only wants nuclear technology for power generation but Washington says Iran is trying to build an atomic bomb.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told BBC Television any idea that using nuclear weapons was under consideration was ''completely nuts.'' Still, Bush appeared determined to keep up the heat on Iran, which faces a UN Security Council demand to suspend its uranium enrichment program.
''I got out a little early on the issue by saying 'axis of evil,''' he said, referring to his controversial 2002 State of the Union speech grouping Iran with North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. ''But I meant it. I saw it as a problem. And now many others have come to the conclusion that the Iranians should not have a nuclear weapon.'' Hersh's story said Bush viewed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a ''potential Adolf Hitler'' and saw ''regime change'' in Tehran as the ultimate goal.