Reuters: Vice President Dick Cheney said on Friday the United States retains all options in keeping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons but the White House stressed it was seeking a diplomatic outcome. WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Vice President Dick Cheney said on Friday the United States retains all options in keeping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons but the White House stressed it was seeking a diplomatic outcome.
Reaffirming longstanding U.S. policy, Cheney told ABC News in an interview while on a trip to Australia: “As we’ve said, we’re doing everything we can to resolve it diplomatically, but we haven’t taken any options off the table.”
In addition, The Weekend Australian newspaper said in its Internet edition that Cheney has endorsed Republican Sen. John McCain’s proposition that the only thing worse than a military confrontation with Iran would be a nuclear-armed Iran.
The Bush administration has long maintained that all options are on the table in dealing with Tehran, but at the same time Washington insists that it is pursuing a diplomatic strategy to deal with what it and its allies view as the threat of Iran’s nuclear program.
The Weekend Australian reported that Cheney said in an interview he had no doubt Iran, which insists its nuclear program is peaceful, was striving to enrich uranium to the point where it could make nuclear weapons.
“You get various estimates of where the point of no return is,” Cheney told the newspaper. “Is it when they possess weapons or does it come sooner, when they have mastered the technology but perhaps not yet produced fissile material for weapons?”
Cheney’s comments came a day after Tehran ignored a U.N. deadline to stop work on enriching uranium which the West says will be used to make atom bombs.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto was asked about Cheney’s comments later by reporters in Washington.
“We’re focused on a diplomatic solution, I think we’ve said that many times, that’s clearly our preference and that is you know consuming our energies right now in our deliberations with the other interested parties at the U.N. and countries in region,” Fratto said.
“We clearly want to see a diplomatic solution to this … The emphasis is on diplomacy and there’s no reason for us to change which options are or are not on the table,” he said.
The U.N. Security Council had given Iran until February 21 to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can make fuel for power plants or material for warheads. The U.N. watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency said on Thursday Iran had not heeded the demand.
The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany will meet in London next week to discuss possible further steps in addition to U.N. sanctions barring the transfer of nuclear technology and know-how that were imposed in December.