Tehran (AFP) Jan 17, 2007
Iran believes a military strike against its nuclear installations is highly improbable but has nonetheless taken the necessary precautions in case it is attacked, top officials said on Wednesday. "We think that it is highly improbable that our nuclear sites would be bombed but we have taken the necessary precautions even for this," said Mohammad Saeedi, vice president of Iran's atomic energy organisation, according to the ISNA agency. The United States and Israel, Iran's two arch-enemies, have never ruled out military action against the Islamic republic to thwart its nuclear programme, which they allege is aimed at making an atomic weapon.
Saeedi did not specify what the precautions have involved.
Defence Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar also said Iran was prepared for any potential move against it.
"Iran's armed forces are closely watching all movements in the region and will not allow any aggression from enemies," he said according to the IRNA news agency.
A report in the Sunday Times newspaper in Britain earlier this month said that Israel was already planning a small-scale nuclear strike on Iranian nuclear sites, although this was strongly denied by the Jewish state.
Iran has already been hit by UN Security Council sanctions over its nuclear programme, which it insists is peaceful and aimed at meeting the energy needs of a growing population.
Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's supreme national security council, echoed Saeedi's comments, saying that "all the options have been taken into account".
"But this talk (of an attack) should not be taken too seriously. We think they have the minimum of intelligence not to do a thing like this," he told reporters, according to IRNA.
Saeedi also said Iran would press on with its nuclear programme, even if the UN Security Council agreed even tougher resolutions against Tehran in the future.
"Even if worse resolutions are adopted, we have started our work and we will continue with it. The secret of our success is unity," he said.
"UN Security Council resolutions will not prevent the Iranian people from achieving their objectives," he added.
Iran's parliament reacted to the UN Security Council resolution by passing a law that obliges the government to "revise" its cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog.
But almost a month after the adoption of the UN resolution, the government has yet to indicate how it intends to interpret the law and Larijani said that there were no need for over-hasty action.
"Why do you want us to react in a hurry? We have to react in a measured way. We want to act in a way that takes into account the country's national interests," he said.
Iran has nonetheless made clear it has no intention of surrendering its nuclear ambitions.
The government spokesman said Monday Tehran wanted to install "even more" than 3,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium at a key nuclear plant in defiance of the UN Security Council demand to freeze the sensitive activity.
Officials have also predicted Iran would make a major announcement on the "completion" of Iran's nuclear programme during the 10-day anniversary celebrations for the Islamic revolution in February.
US Defence Chief Seeks Saudi Support On Iran
He is the first Pentagon chief to visit Saudi Arabia -- a key US ally in the Gulf region and wider Middle East -- since his predecessor Donald Rumsfeld came in April 2003, soon after the US-led invasion of Iraq.
King Abdullah received Gates at a desert camp at Rawdhat Khuraim, 80 kilometres (50 miles) northeast of Riyadh, together with Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, who is also defense minister.
Prince Meqrin bin Abdul Aziz, who heads the Saudi intelligence services, was also present, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported. No other details of the talks were disclosed.
Speaking to reporters travelling with him, Gates indicated that Washington was counting on Riyadh's support in addressing hot-button issues in the region, starting with Iran's nuclear programme.
"I think we can always use Saudi cooperation on these issues in the Gulf region," said Gates when asked if Washington was seeking Riyadh's support to check Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Iran, which insists its nuclear programme is for civilian purposes only, has defied UN Security Council demands to halt its uranium enrichment work -- prompting the world body to impose limited sanctions.
"I think above all, I will be interested in hearing the king's views in these issues, and how the king sees the situation in the region," said Gates, who replaced Rumsfeld as defence secretary a month ago.
"His perspective on these things is specially what I'm interested in."
Gates, former head of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has moved to raise the US military's profile in the Gulf since his appointment by US President George W. Bush.
A second US aircraft carrier battlegroup has been ordered to the Gulf region -- the first time the United States has had so much seagoing muscle in the vicinity since the Iraq invasion.
Bush has meanwhile ordered the deployment of a Patriot missile defense battalion to the region to protect against any possible Iranian ballistic missile threat.
The moves were announced last week as part of the new US strategy for Iraq that will see 21,500 additional troops being deployed, the lion's share of them going to Baghdad to help Iraqi forces quell rampant sectarian bloodshed.
Prior to leaving Afghanistan earlier Wednesday, Gates said that US commanders there had asked for more troops for Afghanistan as well.
The new US strategy calls for placing Iraq within a regional context, and Gates's brief stop in Saudi Arabia was aimed at re-engaging important US allies in the region.
He said Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government "needs, I think, help from other governments in terms of its influence and authority at home."
"I think anything that governments within the region and outside the region can do, particularly on the economic reconstruction and development side in Iraq, would be immensely helpful to the Maliki government and to the Iraqi people," he said.
Saudi Arabia is the fourth stop in a trip that has taken Gates -- who visited Iraq in December -- to London, NATO headquarters in Brussels, and Kabul.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Are North Korea Sanctions Working
Seoul (UPI) Jan 17, 2007
Are three-month-long international sanctions on North Korea effectively forcing the defiant country to finally give up its nuclear weapons program? The answer seems unclear for now as China and South Korea, North Korea's main economic lifelines, have stayed away from major sanctions against their neighbor for fear of possible turmoil in the region. With growing skepticism about the effectiveness of economic sanctions, North Korea has launched campaigns to endure outside pressure, saying it would focus national efforts on building a self-supporting economy.
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