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No Green Light To Israel For Strikes On Alleged Iran Nuke Sites: Rice

The eastern battleground for what will the world's first de-facto nuclear war that will see both sides attack each other's nuclear weapons production facilities spreading radioactive fallout across the Middle East and beyond.
Washington (AFP) Mar 13, 2005
US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on Sunday said Washington has not backed a military strike by Israel against suspected Iranian nuclear sites, contrary to press reports.

When asked by ABC television's "This Week" program to respond to a report in the London Sunday Times that Israel may launch a unilateral attack on Iran if diplomacy fails, Rice insisted that Washington is committed to following a diplomatic course.

"The United States has now, with the European allies, put forward, I think, a strengthened diplomatic hand for the European three to play," she said, referring to Britain, Germany and France.

"It really is now up to the Iranians to do what they need to do. Obviously, the president of the United States always has his options open, but we really do believe that this can be resolved diplomatically."

"What we've forged with Europe is a common front, a common approach to dealing with Iran that says Iran must not develop a nuclear weapon, that Iran's international obligations must be upheld," Rice told ABC.

"That means they cannot develop a nuclear weapon under cover of civilian nuclear power," she said.

"It says that if Iran is not willing to live up to those obligations, then there will be a supported referral to the (UN) Security Council."

Israel Ready To Strike Iranian Nuclear Plant: Report

In a separate report, the Sunday Times said Israel has drawn up plans for a combined air and ground attack on Iranian nuclear installations should diplomatic efforts fail to halt Tehran's nuclear programme.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's inner cabinet gave "initial authorisation" for an attack at a private meeting in February on his ranch in the Negev desert, the weekly said.

"Israeli forces have used a mock-up of Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment plant in the desert to practise destroying it," the Sunday Times said.

It added the operation would include raids by Israel's elite Shaldag (Kingfisher) commando unit and airstrikes by F-15 jets from 69 Squadron, using bunker-busting bombs to penetrate underground facilities.

Israel has discussed its plans with American officials who have indicated that the United States would not prevent such an attack in the event that efforts by the international community fail to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Britain, France and Germany have been trying to secure "objective guarantees" that Iran will not use its atomic energy ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons, and in exchange they are offering a package of trade, security, diplomatic and technology benefits to the Islamic republic.

Ideally, the Europeans would like to see Iran call a permanent halt to its uranium enrichment activities, which are currently suspended.

Iran maintains it has the right to enrich uranium to produce atomic fuel, but once mastered the fuel cycle can be diverted to military purposes.

All rights reserved. � 2004 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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Ex-Israel Air Chief's Appointment Fuels Speculation Over Iran Strike
Jerusalem (AFP) Feb 23, 2005
With the appointment of former air force supremo Dan Halutz as new chief of staff, Israel has put the ideal man in charge of the military for any potential air strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

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