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U.S. To Use Diplomacy In Iran Nuclear Dispute

7 February 2005 -- Senior U.S. officials say Washington is intent on pursuing a diplomatic track in the dispute with Iran over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

Iran has reiterated that it will continue with its nuclear program, saying the program is peaceful.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, asked on Israeli television whether the United States might use force against Iran, said President George W. Bush believes that now is the time for diplomacy.

"I'm not going to speculate," she said. "One always has options, but the president [Bush] believes -- and I believe -- that this is a time for diplomacy and that diplomacy can succeed."

Speaking on U.S. television, Vice President Dick Cheney said he supported further negotiations between Iran and the European Union. A new round of these negotiations is due tomorrow in Geneva.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Iran could be years away from successfully making a nuclear bomb -- though he added he did not know if this estimate is correct.

In Tehran, Iran's top nuclear negotiator and Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hassan Rohani said in an interview with Reuters news agency that the West could offer nothing to persuade Tehran to scrap its nuclear program, which he said was for peaceful purposes only.

He said that if the United States or Israel attacked Iranian nuclear facilities, Iran would retaliate and accelerate activities to increase its nuclear fuel cycle.

"I do not think America itself will take such a risk. Because America knows very well that we will strongly answer such an attack. The Americans are very well aware of our capabilities. They know our capabilities for retaliating against such attacks," Rohani said.