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The US administration is deeply divided on how to deal with Iran's nuclear program, The New York Times reported on Saturday.
According to the paper, a split between those favoring a diplomatic solution and those demanding the use of military force had intensified.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her deputies apparently hold more leverage with their stance on dealing with Teheran through negotiations, and not militarily. Members of Vice President Dick Cheney's office, who have had less influence on decision-making, were pressing for the US to put more effort into considering strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, said the report.
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Since Rice announced the new strategy for the US to collaborate with Europe, Russia and China to pressure Iran to halt its uranium enrichment activities, Iran has installed more than a thousand centrifuges to enrich uranium. The International Atomic Energy Agency predicts that approximately 8,000 could be functioning by the end of 2007.
"Those hard numbers are at the core of the debate within the administration over whether Mr. Bush should warn Iran's leaders that he will not allow them to get beyond some yet-undefined milestones, leaving the implication that a military strike on the country's facilities is still an option," said the Times.
The US government took action Friday against two Iranians suspected of connections to Iran's nuclear program.
The Treasury Department action, part of efforts to tighten the financial vise on Teheran, is against Muhammad Qannadi and Ali Hajinia Leilabadi. Any bank accounts or other financial assets belonging to the pair found in the US must be frozen. In addition, Americans are forbidden from doing business with them. It marked the department's latest move to use targeted financial measures against Iran.