(photo credit: AP)
US officials said there was no immediate plan to strike targets in Iran, but they also would not rule out military action.
Their comments came after President George W. Bush vowed in a prime-time address to Americans to go after Iranian terrorist networks feeding the insurgency in Iraq.
On Friday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that while US forces were trying to prevent Iran and Syria from disrupting US forces in Iraq, there were no immediate plans for an attack.
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"We believe that we can interrupt these networks that are providing support through actions inside the territory of Iraq, that there is no need to attack targets in Iran itself," Gates told the panel, adding that he continues to believe that "any kind of military action inside Iran itself, that would be a very last resort."
On Thursday, five Iranians were detained by US-led forces were working in a decade-old government liaison office that was in the process of being upgraded to a consulate, the Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari said.
"It is not a new office. This liaison office has been there for a long time," Zebari said Friday.
He also echoed concerns the US and Iran were dragging Iraq into their fight.
"We don't want Iraq to be a battleground for settling scores with other countries," Zebari, a Kurd, told CNN.
The US-Iran standoff over Teheran's nuclear program intensified because the United States says Iran helped provide roadside bombs that have killed American troops in Iraq. Thursday's arrests made the tensions inch upward another notch.
Bush's remarks Wednesday in a speech announcing his plan to boost US forces in Iraq, prompted questions from members of Congress about whether the US is considering attacks on Iranian territory. Bush administration officials have long refused to rule out any options against Iran but said military action would be a last resort.
Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, wrote to Bush on Thursday asking for clarifications on the administration's stance toward attacking Iran. Republican Sen. John Warner and Democrat Robert Byrd raised the issue at a hearing Friday.
"The president seems to have placed diplomacy on the back-burner again," Byrd said.
In his speech Wednesday, Bush chastised Iran and Syria for not blocking terrorists at their borders with Iraq. He specifically blamed Iran for providing material support for attacks on American troops.
"We will disrupt the attacks on our forces," Bush said. "We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."
On Friday, White House spokesman Tony Snow called the suggestion that war plans were under way an "urban legend."
"What the president was talking about is defending American forces within Iraq, and also doing what we can to disrupt networks that might be trying to convey weapons or fighters into battle theaters within Iraq to kill Americans and Iraqis," Snow said.