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Iran Says US Military Strike Talk Psychological Warfare

AFP | April 10 2006

Iran branded as "psychological warfare" Sunday media reports that the US military was planning air strikes to force Tehran to abandon its controversial nuclear program. "We regard that (planning for air strikes) as psychological warfare stemming from America's anger and helplessness," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.

Two US publications reported over the weekend that the White House is studying options for military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities, with one even suggesting the use of an atomic weapon had been proposed.

The administration of US President George W. Bush, which accuses Tehran of seeking to manufacture a nuclear bomb, has repeatedly said it is keeping all options open even though it supports efforts for a diplomatic solution.

However British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, whose country was the key US ally in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, dismissed any idea of military action against Tehran.

He told BBC television that the international community was right to view the Islamic republic's nuclear program with "high suspicion" but "there is no smoking gun, there is no 'casus belli' (justification for war)".

"We can't be certain about Iran's intentions and that is therefore not a basis for which anybody would gain authority to go to military action," he said.

Citing unnamed US officials and independent analysts, the Washington Post said no attack appears likely in the short term, but officials are preparing for it as a possible option and using the threat to convince Iranians of the seriousness of their intentions.

Pentagon and CIA planners have been exploring possible targets, such as Iran's underground uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and its uranium conversion plant at Isfahan, both located in central Iran, the report said.

In its April 17 edition, the New Yorker magazine said the US government is planning a massive bombing campaign against Iran, including the use of bunker-buster nuclear bombs to destroy suspected facilities like Natanz.

"The Americans are not seeking a solution for the Iranian nuclear file and are seeking to make crisis. They do not want us to reach an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Europeans," Asefi said.

The spokesman warned that Iran "will not give up its nuclear rights," adding that "activities of research on uranium enrichment are continuing normally" in Natanz.

"Sending our file to the UN Security Council will not make us retreat. During the past 27 years, we underwent economic sanctions and in spite of that we made economic, technical and scientific progress," he added.

Asefi confirmed that IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei would be visiting Iran this week amid ongoing inspections by the UN watchdog's workers of its nuclear plants. The visit is expected to take place on Thursday, according to the agency.

"He will be in Iran by the end of this week, and his visit is within the framework of our cooperation with the agency," he said.

"We will discuss our nuclear issues with the IAEA, since all of our (nuclear) activities are under the agency's supervision."

Iranian media showed footage of the inspectors working at the Isfahan conversion plant. Iranian television said that the inspectors were in Natanz uranium enrichment facility on Saturday.

"The inspectors are doing their visit according to preplanned inspections and they will remain in Iran for the next two to three days," said Asefi.

"The mere existence of the inspectors in Iran shows our serious cooperation with the IAEA, and we believe that Iran's file should be handled within the framework of the IAEA."

The UN Security Council, in a non-binding statement, called on Iran on March 29 to suspend all its enrichment-related activities in 30 days, a move promptly rejected by Tehran.

The United States accuses Iran of using its civilian nuclear program to hide a drive for nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charges.

Enrichment is the process used to manufacture fuel for the civil nuclear power stations but can be also used for manufacture core material for atomic bombs.

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