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Military action against Iran remains an option: US admiral

Iran troops still on Iraqi soil: Iraqi politician
Amara, Iraq (AFP) Dec 21, 2009 - Iranian troops remained inside Iraq territory on Monday despite pulling back from an oil well along the two countries' disputed frontier, a local politician told AFP. Oil ministry spokesman Assem Jihad, meanwhile, said the oil well had not yet been developed and that no Iraqis had worked to extract crude from it before Iran took it over last week. "The Iranians withdrew from the well and took down the Iranian flag," Mayssam Lafta, the Maysan provincial council member charged with security and defence, told AFP. "But they are still on Iraqi soil." The well, known as Oil Well 4, is situated in Maysan.

According to Lafta, the Iranians are positioned 50 metres (yards) east of the well, while Iraqi forces are "surrounding the well." The oil ministry spokesman said the well had "not been developed" and added that no workers would be going to it because it was not in use. Iraqi officials say the well lies 100 metres (yards) inside Iraqi territory. Iran insists it lies on its side of the border. On Friday, an official of Iraq's state-owned South Oil Company in the Maysan provincial capital Amara said that a dozen Iranian troops and technicians had arrived at the field, taken control of Well 4 and raised the Iranian flag. One SOC employee spoke of how he and his colleagues had faced harassment and intimidation from Iranian forces for several years on visits to the well.

"Usually when we have gone there, we have gone as a group, with engineers and technicians," said Hassan Abu Qassim, a 40-year-old SOC technician. "Iranian forces would shout in our direction when we go there, to make us afraid, and warn us not to approach. The last time we went was in the summer, and the Iranians shouted at us and did not want us to go nearby." It was the first serious incident between the two neighbours since the US-led invasion of 2003 toppled now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, which fought a devastating 1980-1988 war against Iran. Many leaders of Shiite parties who were exiled in Iran during the Saddam era are now in power in Baghdad. Well 4 is in the Fauqa Field, part of a cluster of oilfields which Iraq unsuccessfully put up for auction to oil majors in June. The field has estimated reserves of 1.55 million barrels. The tensions between the two oil producing countries come as OPEC readies for a meeting in Angola on Tuesday.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Dec 21, 2009
Diplomacy offers the best way to resolve tensions over Iran's nuclear program but the Pentagon must be ready with military options if needed, the top US military chief said on Monday.

"No resolution is yet in sight, but I fully support the effort to focus on diplomatic solutions to existing tensions" with Iran, Admiral Mike Mullen wrote in a memorandum setting out strategic priorities for the US armed forces in 2010.

"My belief remains that political means are the best tools to attain regional security and that military force will have limited results," said Mullen, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff.

"However, should the president call for military options, we must have them ready."

The United States and its allies suspect Iran is developing technology to enrich uranium to highly refined levels that would allow it to build a nuclear bomb, a charge Tehran vehemently denies, saying its nuclear program serves peaceful purposes.

With a year-end deadline, President Barack Obama's administration has signaled that time is running out for Iran to seize its offer of diplomatic engagement for resolving nuclear and other issues.

Washington has raised the threat of a fourth round of UN sanctions, but will need to persuade Russia and China to drop their traditional reluctance to consider tougher measures.

earlier related report
Japan voices 'strong concerns' to Iran's nuclear envoy
Tokyo (AFP) Dec 21, 2009 - Japan's foreign minister voiced "strong concerns" Monday about Iran's nuclear programme in talks with Tehran's top nuclear negotiator, warning that it was preventing broader cooperation.

"There are many fields in which we can cooperate, but the situation surrounding Iran won't easily allow us to go ahead with the cooperation," Katsuya Okada told visiting envoy Saeed Jalili, according to his ministry.

"I have strong concerns over the situation surrounding Iran's nuclear issue," Okada added.

He also urged Iran to accept an offer of dialogue with the United States, the official said.

"You should not miss this chance. If you miss this chance, the American door may be shut, which will make the situation worse," he was quoted as saying.

Japan is one of few major developed nations maintaining warm relations with Iran, in a rare break with the United States, its main ally.

Iran insists that its nuclear program is solely for civilian purposes and rejects Western suspicions that it is covertly trying to develop a bomb.

At a later press conference, Jalili defended Iran's position and said Iran wanted to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to eradicate nuclear weapons.

When asked about a report that a planeload of weapons from North Korea seized in Bangkok this month was bound for Iran, he said only that Tehran was different from Pyongyang because it allows inspections by UN nuclear experts.

"Our approach toward this issue is completely different from that of North Korea. We seriously oppose massively destructive nuclear weapons," he said.

The Wall Street Journal, quoting a flight plan obtained by researchers, said the plane was due to make refuelling stops in Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates and Ukraine before unloading in Tehran.

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Stop threats if you want a deal says Ahmadinejad
Copenhagen (AFP) Dec 18, 2009
Iran is ready to strike a uranium enrichment deal if the United States and the West respect the Islamic Republic and stop making threats, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told AFP Friday. "Everything is possible, 400 kilos, 800 kilos, it's nothing," for enrichment abroad, he said in a new gesture to try to end the nuclear standoff. "But not in a climate where they threaten us. They have to ... read more

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