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U.S., Iran Downplay Talk Of War Over Nuclear Dispute

Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki cited "constructive statements and approaches"
U.S. President George W. Bush continues to insist that both military and diplomatic options remain on the table as Washington tries to convince Iran to end its uranium-enrichment program.

"I have always said that all options are on the table," Bush said on July 2. "But the first option for the United States is to solve this problem diplomatically."

The United States has accused Tehran of trying to build nuclear weapons. Iran insists it only wants to develop nuclear facilities for peaceful, civilian purposes. President Bush now says progress is being made in diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis.

"I've also made it clear that you can't solve a problem diplomatically unless there are other people at the table with you, and that is why we have been pursuing multilateral diplomacy when it comes to convincing the Iranians that the free world is sincere about insisting that they not have the technologies necessary to develop a nuclear weapon," Bush said. "And we're making progress along those lines."

Tensions have flared in recent days amid reports that Israel might be planning to carry out strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities. That has helped send crude-oil prices soaring to record highs on international markets.

But Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki, on a July 2 visit to United Nations headquarters in New York, told journalists he thinks neither the United States nor Israel will risk what he called the "craziness" of attacking Iran.

Mottaki said officials in Tehran think such an attack is unlikely because U.S. forces are bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mottaki said "constructive statements and approaches," as well as an earlier proposal by Iran, had "paved the way" for creating a more positive diplomatic atmosphere. But he also issued a warning that "if the nature of the offense changes and takes on a military shape and form, then the military will use its own language and speak in its own language."

"Our preference is that the environment remains political and diplomatic so that we can find diplomatic solutions as a priority," Mottaki said.

At the Pentagon, the chairman of the U.S. Joint chiefs of Staff, U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, said Tehran has reached the wrong conclusion if it thinks the United States is unable to back diplomacy with military force. Still, Mullen admitted that war with Iran would be a logistical challenge for U.S. forces.

"Opening up a third front right now would be extremely stressful on us," Mullen said. "That doesn't mean we don't have capacity or reserve. But that would really be very challenging. And also the consequences of that sometimes are very difficult to predict."

Mullen, who recently returned from a two-day visit to Israel, said he thinks Tehran is "still on a path to get nuclear weapons." But Mullen said he is convinced that the way to resolve the dispute with Iran is to use other tactics to change Tehran's behavior -- including diplomatic, financial, and international pressure.

U.S. military officials are downplaying concerns that Tehran would be able to close the Strait of Hormuz -- a key oil shipping route -- if Iran does become engaged in any military confrontation with Israel or the United States.

compiled from news agency reports