The Times: DICK CHENEY placed Iran at the top of Washington’s list of world troublespots and said that he feared that Israel may strike Tehran in order to eliminate its nuclear threat. “We don’t want a war in the Middle East if we can avoid it,” said Mr Cheney, who was yesterday sworn in for a second term as President Bush’s Vice-President. The Times

From Roland Watson in Washington

DICK CHENEY placed Iran at the top of Washington’s list of world troublespots and said that he feared that Israel may strike Tehran in order to eliminate its nuclear threat.

“We don’t want a war in the Middle East if we can avoid it,” said Mr Cheney, who was yesterday sworn in for a second term as President Bush’s Vice-President.

But on the same day that Mr Bush warned tyrants around the world that he would devote the next four years to destroying their regimes with an “untamed fire of freedom”, Mr Cheney lost no time to get to the point.

“You look around the world at potential troublespots, Iran is right at the top of the list,” the Vice-President said in a television interview.

“Given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards.”

Mr Bush avoided such specifics, delivering instead a clarion call to liberty and vowing to work to free the downtrodden.

The ultimate goal was “ending tyranny”, he told tens of thousands of people gathered at the US Capitol to witness the pageantry of the quadrennial ceremony, at which Mr Bush became the 20th of America’s 43 presidents to be sworn into office twice.

Condoleezza Rice, the incoming Secretary of State, had branded six countries — Cuba, Burma, North Korea, Iran, Belarus and Zimbabwe — as “outposts of tyranny” during her Senate confirmation hearings this week. Some analysts were surprised that she did not include Syria.

Mr Bush conceded that he was choosing to continue to lead Americans on an awkward path of confrontation overseas. But he said that it was essential for America’s own freedoms: “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.

“The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.”

Unusually for an inauguration address, Mr Bush devoted scarcely any attention to his domestic goals.

The oath was administered by William Rehnquist, the ailing Supreme Court chief justice.

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