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. US not seeking Iran showdown: Pentagon official
ABU DHABI, Feb 17 (AFP) Feb 17, 2007
Washington is not seeking a military confrontation with Tehran over its controversial nuclear programme, a senior Pentagon official told a Gulf security conference Saturday.

"We are not seeking a military showdown with Iran. We are not seeking military confrontation," Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for the Middle East Mark Kimmitt told the conference in the United Arab Emirates capital.

"We believe that diplomacy remains the best way to deal with the Iranian nuclear problem," added Kimmitt, rejecting mounting accusations from some Democratic lawmakers that the Republican administration is seeking a new war in the region.

Kimmitt said Washington was concerned about the regional ambitions of Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his efforts to take advantage of the turmoil in iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003.

"We have concerns about the hegemonic aspirations of Iran," he said.

"They seem to think that the removal of Saddam from power in Iraq and the absence of a regional counterweight provides them with the licence to expand their influence and presence throughout the Gulf."

Opening the one-day security conference, UAE Education Minister Sheikh Nahayan Mubarak al-Nahayan stressed the "importance for the whole world" of the security of the six oil-rich Gulf Arab states.

The seminar precedes the Middle East's biggest arms show, IDEX-2007, which opens Sunday and runs to Thursday.

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