US: Bush committed to diplomacy on Iran

Clarification by White House comes after Mofaz said Israel would attack Iran if nuclear program continues.

mofaz olmert 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
mofaz olmert 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hours after Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz was quoted as saying that Iran would be attacked if it continued work on its nuclear program, the White House attempted to tone down the rhetoric, emphasizing that while the Bush administration was committed to stopping Teheran's nuclear ambitions, they would try to do so through diplomatic means. "I understand that Israel is very concerned about their future and their safety when they have a neighbor in their region - Iran - that says they want to wipe them off the map," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Friday told reporters. "We are trying to solve this diplomatically." However, when asked if a military strike was possible, Perino said that the president "would never take any options off the table." In a report published by Yediot Ahronot on Friday, Mofaz made the most explicit statement to date by an Israeli minister of the possibility that Israel would attack Iran, saying that such a move was inevitable if Teheran did not cease nuclear development. Mofaz also said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "will disappear before Israel does," the report quoted. Ahmadinejad has called repeatedly for Israel's destruction. Mofaz's spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the remarks, which were much more explicit than anything Prime Minister Ehud Olmert himself has said. Olmert has gone no further than hinting that Israel was prepared to use force against Iranian nuclear facilities, saying only Tuesday that "the Iranian threat must be stopped by all means. " According to the report, Mofaz - a former chief of staff and defense minister - has concluded that international sanctions haven't curbed Teheran's nuclear ambitions. "If Iran continues its nuclear arms program - we will attack it," Mofaz was quoted as saying. "The sanctions aren't effective. There will be no choice but to attack Iran to halt the Iranian nuclear program." An Israeli military strike against Iran would have US backing, Mofaz said. Mofaz's bellicose comments on Iran coincide with the launching of his campaign to replace Olmert as head of Kadima Party if a corruption probe pushes Olmert out of office. Mofaz is carving out a hawkish position, and earlier this week, spoke out against returning the Golan Heights, captured in the 1967 Mideast war, to Syria. A recent poll of Kadima members showed Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni easily besting Mofaz in a party leadership race.