Washington (AFP) Feb 8, 2007
The White House underscored Thursday that it has no plans to invade Iran, and downplayed the significance of reinforcing the US military presence in the Gulf region. White House spokesman Tony Snow made the remarks in response to comments Thursday by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warning that Iran will hit back at US interests worldwide if it is attacked.
"Let's see, I've said it, the secretary of defense has said it, the president has said it: We're not invading Iran," Snow told reporters, adding that the ayatollah is "spinning a hypothetical about something that is not contemplated.
"You guys (journalists) kept trying to report that we were doing it. And we kept saying, no, we're not," Snow said.
Amid speculation about a military buildup, Snow played down President George W. Bush's decision to order a second aircraft carrier to the strategic Gulf region and deploy Patriot missiles.
"We quite often deploy carrier task forces all around the world," he said.
Snow also rejected the notion that the Gulf is Iran's "backyard," saying: "It is not as if they're parking outside of Iranian ports."
earlier related report
"Our position with the Iranians remains consistent on a number of fronts, but we are not seeing that as a direct assault on our ships," White House spokesman Tony Snow said.
US Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman downplayed the missile test, saying "that's not new that Iran conducts military exercises and missile tests."
The United States was pursuing diplomacy and was not preparing for military action against Iran, Whitman said.
"Our concerns with respect to Iran are being dealt with in the United States government through diplomatic means," the Pentagon spokesman said. "The United States military is not making plans ... for attacking Iran."
Iranian state television reported earlier Thursday that the elite Revolutionary Guards had successfully test-fired a land-to-sea missile with a range of about 350 kilometers (210 miles).
The firing came on the second day of war games by the Guards' air force and naval divisions amid mounting tensions with the West over Iran's disputed nuclear program.
US President George W. Bush recently ordered a second aircraft carrier group into Gulf waters and said last month that Patriot anti-missile missiles would be stationed in the region.
The rising tensions have led to fears that the US could be planning some kind of military intervention against the Islamic republic which it has accused of working to destabilize the region.
earlier related report
The firing came on the second day of war games by the Guards' air force and naval divisions amid mounting tensions with the West over Iran's nuclear programme.
"We have successfully test fired a cruise missile called SSN4, or Raad, hitting targets 300 kilometres (180 miles) away in the Sea of Oman and northern Indian Ocean," deputy air force commander, Ali Fadavi was quoted as saying.
"This missile has the final range of 350 kilometres and can hit all kinds of big warships in all of the Persian Gulf, Sea of Oman and northern Indian Ocean.
"It can carry a 500 kilo (1,100 pounds) warhead and can fly at low altitude, evading radar jammings and immune to electronic measures."
Iranian television showed footage of the missile being fired and hitting its target.
In January 2004, then defence minister Ali Shamkhani said Tehran would proceed with production of a new line of Raad missiles to be deployed in the Gulf region.
The Guards on Wednesday successfully test-fired a new Russian-made air defence missile system, whose delivery last month sparked bitter US criticism.
TOR-M1 surface-to-air missiles were shown being fired from mobile vehicle launchers and successfully taking out their targets.
In 2005, Tehran and Moscow signed a contract for the purchase of 29 TOR-M1 missile systems estimated to be worth 700 million dollars (540 million euros).
The United States had urged Russia to cancel the sale, saying it was a mistake when the UN Security Council had imposed sanctions against Iran's ballistic missile industry as part of measures against its nuclear drive.
Iran's leaders have repeatedly said the country's armed forces are ready for any eventuality in the current standoff with the West over its nuclear programme.
Although the United States has said it wants the standoff solved through diplomacy, Washington has never ruled out military action to thwart Iran's atomic drive.
The United States accuses Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon. Tehran vehemently denied that, insisting its atomic programme is peaceful in nature.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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