Ahmadinejad clerics 224..
(photo credit: AP [file])
The United States reiterated Wednesday that it will continue efforts to reach a solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis through diplomatic means, China's Xinhua news agency reported.
"There's no one in the administration that is suggesting anything other than a diplomatic approach to Iran," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.
Perino denied that head of the US Central Command, Admiral William J. Fallon, had resigned due to a disagreement with President George W. Bush on Iran.
"The president welcomes robust and healthy debate," she said, adding that there were "dissenting views on a variety of issues that get worked out through our policy process. That is usually not played out in the press."
"What the president has said is that all options are on the table is what helps make diplomacy work and makes it more effective," she said.
Fallon said in a statement Tuesday that he was stepping down because reports that he differed with Bush over Iran- chiefly an article in Esquire magazine - had become "a distraction."
The White House statements came as the US Treasury decided to impose financial sanctions on a Bahrain bank the United States alleges is controlled by Iran's Bank Melli, which has been accused of providing support to Iran's nuclear program.
The Treasury Department's action Wednesday targets Future Bank BSC. Any bank accounts or other financial assets found in the US belonging to the bank must be frozen. Americans also are prohibited from doing business with the bank.
It marked the government's latest effort to tighten the financial noose on Iran, which the United States accuses of bankrolling terrorism and seeking a nuclear bomb. The administration also has accused Iran of taking steps to evade a range of financial sanctions.
Future Bank was established in 2004 as a joint venture between two Iranian state-owned banks - Bank Melli and Bank Saderat - and a private bank based in Bahrain, the department said. Bank Melli and Bank Saderat were put on the United States' blacklist last year to have their financial assets frozen.
Bank Melli and Bank Saderat each hold 33.3 percent of Future Bank's outstanding shares, the department said. The department said other information available to the government - but not publicly disclosed - also demonstrates that Future Bank is controlled by Bank Melli.
"Bank Melli goes to extraordinary lengths to assist Iran's pursuit of a nuclear capability and ballistic missiles, while also helping other designated entities to dodge sanctions," said Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. "Banks and other entities owned or controlled by Bank Melli pose a serious threat to the integrity of the international financial system," he added.
The United States last year accused Bank Melli of providing services to Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Bank Saderat was accused last year of providing support to the terrorist organizations of Hizbullah and Hamas.