(photo credit: AP [file])
US Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday reiterated the Bush administration's insistence that Iran would not be able to acquire nuclear bombs.
"We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon," Cheney told the audience at a Washington Institute for Near East Policy conference Sunday. It was one of the few lines in a speech defending the administration's policy in the War on Terror for which he received applause from the audience filled largely with policymakers, analysts and journalists.
"Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions," Cheney said.
Cheney warned that if the Islamic Republic continues its current nuclear pursuit - in which it has defied international demands to halt uranium enrichment - the US and other countries were prepared to impose "serious consequences." He didn't spell out those consequences and did not refer to military action, despite swelling speculation that the United States might be preparing for such an attack.
Administration officials have rejected such talk and instead emphasize their interest in pursuing a diplomatic solution.
But the rhetoric on the threat posed by Iran has been increasing, as US President George W. Bush said in a press conference last week that Iran gaining nuclear know-how could lead to "World War III." Bush's spokeswoman later said the president was making not making any war plans but rather "a rhetorical point." Bush has also pointed to Iranian involvement in attacks against US troops in Iraq, as Cheney did on Sunday.
Iran's government seeks "to keep Iraq in a state of weakness to ensure Baghdad does not pose a threat to Teheran," Cheney said.
He said Iran's efforts to pursue technology that would allow it to build a nuclear weapon are obvious and that "the regime continues to practice delay and deceit in an obvious effort to buy time."
On Thursday, the top officer in the US military said America has the resources to attack Iran if needed despite the strains of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said striking Iran is a last resort, and the focus now is on diplomacy to stem Iran's nuclear ambitions, but "there is more than enough reserve to respond" militarily if need be.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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