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US Committed to Diplomatic Solution to Iranian Nuclear Issue

The Bush administration Tuesday reaffirmed its commitment to a diplomatic resolution of the Iran nuclear issue though also saying it forecloses no options in dealing with the matter. The comments followed an Israeli newspaper story that U.S. military action against Iran could come within months. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Administration spokespersons are rejecting, with unusual vehemence, a Jerusalem Post report that a U.S. military strike against Iran is likely before the end of President Bush's term in office next January.

The English-language Israeli newspaper quoted a senior official in Jerusalem as saying that a high-ranking member of President Bush's entourage - while in Israel last week - said that both Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney believe that military action against Iran is "called for."

The Jerusalem Post account said "hesitancy" on the part of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is preventing a U.S. attack decision, at least for the time being.

In a written statement, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino ridiculed the newspaper account - attributed she said to unnamed sources quoting other unnamed sources - as in her words "not worth the paper it's written on."

Perino said the United States and its allies remain opposed to Iran's ambitions to obtain a nuclear weapon, and to that end are working to bring tough diplomatic and economic pressure to bear on Iran's leaders to get them to halt uranium enrichment.

Perino said no U.S. president should ever take options off the table, but that the U.S. preference, and actions, for dealing with the matter remain focused on peaceful diplomatic means and nothing has changed in that regard.

There were similar comments here from State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack, who reiterated Secretary Rice's offer of open-ended dialogue with Iran if it suspended its enrichment effort:

"There's no change in our policy," he said. "We are committed to trying to work through diplomatic avenues, to work the international politics, to try to bring about an acceptable understanding between Iran and the rest of the world concerning its nuclear program, as well as other kinds of behaviors that it has. They in turn can realize discussion with us as well as others if they take certain steps. We're committed to this pathway."

Rice and fellow big-power foreign ministers agreed earlier this month in London on a new offer of incentives for Iran to scrap its uranium enrichment program.

McCormack said European Union chief diplomat Javier Solana will formally deliver what is being termed the "refreshed" incentives package to Tehran soon, and that the Iranian government will have a reasonable period to respond.

The incentives offer is part of a two-track strategy by the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany, the P5 Plus One that has also included three U.N. sanctions resolutions against Iran.