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US Defends Military Build-Up Against An Aggressive Iran

Victoria Nuland, US ambassador to NATO
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Feb 02, 2007
The United States' ambassador to NATO defended Friday a US military build-up in the Gulf in response to what she said was an increasingly "aggressive" stance by Iran. Victoria Nuland, in an interview with Sky News television, vowed to defend US interests in the region, where she said many people were "very scared" of the Islamic republic's intentions. US President George W. Bush recently ordered a second aircraft carrier strike group to the Gulf, raising the US naval presence in the region to its highest level since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"For a long time the Iranians have been increasing their aggressive actions in the region, and they have been counting on the US being too tied down in Iraq to do what we have traditionally done, which is to maintain a strong military presence in the Gulf," Nuland told Sky.

The US is committed to "support our friends and partners in that part of the world, many of whom are very scared, particularly in the Gulf region, of Iran's aggressive behaviour," she said.

"So it is appropriate that we show our presence, that we be there and that we make clear that we are prepared to defend our interests and we are prepared to support our friends."

The United States, which suspects Iran of seeking to develop a nuclear weapon under the guise of its civilian atomic energy programme, is leading efforts to isolate Iran through UN sanctions.

earlier related report
US officers, British faith leaders warn against attacking Iran
London (AFP) Feb 3 - Three former senior US military officers have warned that attacking Iran would be "disastrous" for world peace and called on Britain's Tony Blair use his influence to avert a global crisis.

In a letter to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper, Lieutenant General Robert G. Gard Jr, General Joseph P. Hoar and Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan, urged Blair to lead the way to secure a diplomatic deal between the West and Tehran.

"As former US military leaders, we strongly caution against the use of military force against Iran," the retired commanders wrote.

"An attack on Iran would have disastrous consequences for security in the region, coalition forces in Iraq and would further exacerbate regional and global tensions. The current crisis must be solved through diplomacy."

Iran is continuing to defy Western calls for it to abandon its enrichment of uranium, insisting it is developing the technology for civil energy reasons and not, as has been alleged, to build nuclear weapons.

After reports that military action against the Islamic republic has been considered by both the United States and Israel, Gard, Hoar and Shanahan said diplomacy with Iran would be more beneficial.

"The British government has a vital role to play in securing a renewed diplomatic push and making it clear that it will oppose any recourse to military force," the retired commanders wrote.

"The Bush administration should engage immediately in direct talks with the government of Iran without preconditions. There is time available to talk, we must ensure that we use it."

The military commanders letter was published as three Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders in Britain wrote to the Independent on Sunday newspaper, warning that any military action would only strengthen the position of hardliners in Iran.

"The reality is that at present, there is no justification in international law for attacking Iran militarily and the use of force is not an option at this juncture," they added, urging a similar diplomatic tack.

Gard, a former US Army officer, is now a senior military fellow at the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington.

Shanahan, a former commander of the US Navy North Atlantic Fleet, is currently the chairman of the Military Advisory Committee at lobby group Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, analysing US defence requirements.

Hoar was former commander in chief at US Central Command. He took over from General Norman Schwarzkopf in 1991 and oversaw the enforcement of the Persian Gulf and Red Sea naval embargo and the southern no-fly zone in Iraq.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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North Korea Demands Oil To Suspend Nuclear Reactor Operations
Tokyo (AFP) Feb 04, 2007
North Korea has demanded more than 500,000 tons of oil a year in return for suspending a a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor, a Japanese daily reported Sunday. High-ranking North Korean officials, including nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-Gwan, met two US nuclear experts -- former State Department official Joel Witt and Institute for Science and International Security president David Albright -- last week, the influential Asahi Shimbun daily said.

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