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Rumsfeld Calls for Diplomatic Efforts to Halt Iran's Nuclear Program


U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has called for diplomatic efforts to halt Iran's nuclear program, as the International Atomic Energy Agency said it would report Iran to the U.N. Security Council. Mr. Rumsfeld made the remarks at an international defense conference in Germany.

Mr. Rumsfeld did not mince his words at the annual Munich conference, gathering more than 40 defense and foreign ministers. He called on the international community to work for a diplomatic solution to halt Iran's nuclear program, warning of the consequences if it did not.

"The Iranian regime is today the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism," said Donald Rumsfeld. "The world does not want, and must work together to avoid a nuclear Iran."

Mr. Rumsfeld's warning came shortly before the IAEA in Vienna voted to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council over concerns Tehran might be developing nuclear weapons. The Iranian government insists its program is for peaceful, civilian purposes. It has lobbied hard to avoid being reported to the Security Council.

Also addressing the security conference in Munich was German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She said the U.N. Security Council is "the legitimate place to discuss international issues."

"The referral to the U.N. Security Council is no provocation of Iran," she says.

The similarity in tone struck by the German and U.S. officials contrasted sharply with that in previous years. Relations between the Bush administration and Mrs. Merkel are warmer than they were with her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder.

Besides Iran, Iraq and NATO were also major themes of discussion at the security conference Saturday. Mr. Rumsfeld warned, Iraq might be used by extremists as the next front for their terror war, and he reiterated U.S. calls that NATO members should spend more on defense and security.

European members have been reluctant to do so. And Mrs. Merkel, for one, said that budget constraints would limit Germany's defense spending in the near future.

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