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US Lawmakers Urge Vigilance Against Iran Military Option

A group of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives is repeating concerns about the possibility of military conflict with Iran. VOA's Dan Robinson reports, lawmakers met with reporters, at the start of a two-week break, to signal that Congress will demand that President Bush seek congressional authorization before launching any military strikes against Iran.

Six House Democrats used a news conference to repeat concerns about any move by the president to exercise a military option against Iran because of its uranium enrichment program.

In recent weeks, congressional committees have held numerous hearings on the impasse over Iran's nuclear efforts which the Bush administration says are aimed at developing a nuclear weapon. Tehran says its program is for peaceful energy purposes.

While emphasizing diplomacy and negotiations, President Bush has also repeatedly said all options are on the table.

In the wake of the U.S. military intervention in Iraq, lawmakers are making clear they do not want history repeated.

"Saber rattling that is going on in the White House has no support anywhere in the world," said Sam Farr, a California Democrat. "Our allies in Europe have been very critical of it. Our military has been cautionary critical of it. It's not helping the situation, it's not providing an atmosphere in which dialogue [with Iran] can be created."

Farr and others sent a letter to President Bush last month in which they cautioned him against using congressional resolutions approved in 2001 and 2002 as the basis for pre-emptive military action against Iran.

Those were the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) prior to the invasion of Afghanistan, and the 2002 authorization to attack Iraq. The administration has cited both in various communications with members of Congress regarding presidential war powers.

In the news conference, the Democrats referred to 13 legislative efforts in the House and Senate this year dealing with Iran and sanctions against it because of its nuclear efforts, but also attempts to prevent President Bush from initiating military action without first obtaining congressional authorization.

Oregon Democrat Pete DeFazio and California Congresswoman Barbara Lee say Congress is determined.

"To just re-state the Constitution of the United States and the war powers of the U.S. Congress, and make clear to this president that he cannot have a discretionary war in Iran without the consent of the U.S. Congress," said DeFazio.

"The drumbeat to war against Iran is increasing daily, and is strikingly similar to the same drumbeat that we heard that led up to the invasion of Iraq nearly five years ago," Lee said.

The White House issued a chilly response to the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran, emphasizing parts of the document that says Iran is still not fully disclosing its nuclear activities.

While it says Iran is still defying ultimatums to suspend its uranium enrichment, the report also points to what it calls progress by Tehran in revealing the extent of its programs.

Washington state Democrat Jim McDermott accuses the Bush administration of looking for excuses to downplay any progress.

"You look in today's news, the U.N. report on Iran comes out and says that they are not going toward a bomb, they are controlling, they know what is happening, and immediately the American government blows it off and says it means nothing, which is exactly what they did to [former U.N. arms inspector in Iraq] Hans Blix in 2002," he said. "They are beating the drums for war."

California Democrat Farr told reporters that the cautions he and others are voicing should not be seen as a lack of concern about the danger of Iran developing a nuclear weapon.

Rather he says lawmakers are trying to emphasize the need to pursue alternatives to military action.