The military option against Iran is available if needed, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said on Sunday in an interview with ABC News’ This Week.

“The fundamental premise is that neither the United States nor the international community is going to allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon,” he said. “We will do everything we can to prevent them from developing a weapon.”

Panetta referenced comments made earlier this month by US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro that Washington has a military contingency plan, should diplomatic talks fail to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear program. “It would be preferable to solve this diplomatically and through the use of pressure, than to use military force,” Shapiro said. “But that doesn’t mean that option isn’t fully available. Not just available, it’s ready. The necessary planning has been done to ensure that it’s ready.

“The international community has been unified,” he said. “We’ve put very tough sanctions on them as a result of that... We are prepared for any sort of contingency in that part of the world.”


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Panetta's comments on Iran begin at 14:21 mark

During the interview, the US secretary of defense also addressed the issues of NATO’s involvement in Afghanistan as well as the growing threat of cyber warfare.

Panetta met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak
at the Pentagon earlier this month, with the aim of coordinating strategy with the US ahead of the second round of talks between Western powers and Iran in Baghdad last week.

A senior US official was quoted on Saturday by Israel Radio as saying that the US was planning on increasing sanctions on Iran until it ceased enriching uranium.

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