The United States Friday reiterated its commitment to a diplomatic
resolution of the Iran nuclear issue amid a report Israel conducted a
simulated attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. The New York Times
said the long-range Israeli exercise was conducted over the
Mediterranean Sea earlier this month. VOA's David Gollust reports from
the State Department.
U.S. officials are expressing
understanding for Israel's concern about the Iranian nuclear program
and pointedly have not criticized the reported exercise.
they are reiterating the Bush administration's commitment to a
two-track diplomatic strategy of incentives and sanctions to try to get
Iran to drop its uranium enrichment project, and say they still hold
out hope diplomacy will work.
The comments follow a New York
Times report Friday quoting U.S. officials as saying that Israel
conducted a long-range military exercise over the Mediterranean and
Greece two weeks ago that appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential
attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.
At a news briefing, State
Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said while the Bush administration
itself forecloses no options for dealing with the Iranian nuclear
program, it continues to pursue the diplomatic track and believes it
He said he could not speak to what Israel intended to
achieve with the exercise, said to have involved more than 100
aircraft, but said it is quite clear that given Iranian rhetoric about
the Jewish state, Israel does view that country as a real threat.
can certainly understand that, given the fact that the president of
Iran has talked about wiping Israel off the map," he said. "So Israel
does see Iran as an existential threat. But again, I am going to have
to kick any questions about what was intended by this exercise, what
its purpose was, what they hoped to accomplish, to the Israeli
government. They're the competent officials to talk about those issues."
officials have declined comment on the reported exercise. However
members of the Israeli government, including deputy prime minister and
former military chief Shaul Mofaz have warned that Israel might be left
with no choice but to attack, if Iran's nuclear program is not halted.
staged a long-range air strike to destroy an Iraqi nuclear reactor in
1980, and last September it bombed a facility in northern Syria said by
some analysts to have been a reactor being built with North Korean
Iran insists its nuclear program is entirely peaceful,
but Israel and key Bush administration officials, among others, believe
it is seeking a weapons capability.
The five permanent U.N.
Security Council member countries and Germany (the P5-plus-One) last
week formally presented Iran with an updated package of incentives,
including civilian nuclear power assistance, if Iran halted its
Spokesman McCormack said despite caustic
comments from some officials in Tehran, Iran has said it will consider
the plan and has not rejected it outright.
He also said the
other track of the diplomatic strategy, disincentives, remains active
with the European Union preparing new economic sanctions in case the
P5-plus-One offer is turned down.
A senior official who spoke to
reporters here said he did not think the Israeli military exercise
would affect the Iran diplomacy, saying everyone involved in the
diplomatic process understands the potential implications if Iran
perfects nuclear weapons techniques.