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. Iran likely taking US nuclear threat seriously: US ex-defense chief
WASHINGTON, Jan 8 (AFP) Jan 08, 2009
Iran may regard the threat of a US nuclear attack as "much more likely" in light of Hillary Clinton's warning during the US presidential campaign that Washington can obliterate Tehran, a former US defense secretary said Thursday.

James Schlesinger, who led the US Defense Department from 1973 to 1975, made the remark at a Pentagon news conference, after presenting a blue-ribbon panel report finding that US nuclear deterrence has slipped due to neglect in past years at high levels of the Pentagon.

Schlesinger, who served under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, said North Korea probably has come to believe it is "reasonably safe from a nuclear response" because of the US response to its development of nuclear weapons.

But asked whether Iran feared a US nuclear attack, Schlesinger said: "I think they would regard that as a much more likely development.

"As you may recall in the recent democratic primaries, Mrs Clinton observed, 'We can obliterate you','" he said,

Noting that Clinton will be secretary of state in President-elect Barak Obama's administration, Schlesinger added, "I don't think that remark will be forgotten in Tehran, even if it is forgotten in this country."

Clinton made the remark in a US television interview in April, during which she was asked what she would do as president if Iran were to launch a nuclear attack on Israel.

"I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran," Clinton said.

"In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them."

Obama, Clinton's rival for the Democratic nomination and now soon-to-be her boss, sharply criticized the New York senator at the time for the same sort of "bluster and saber-rattling and tough talk" that characterized President George W. Bush.

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