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Gates says U.S. not planning for war with Iran

/ Source: news services

The United States is not planning for a war with Iran and instead is trying to stop them from contributing to the violence in Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Friday.

"The President has made clear, the Secretary of State has made clear, I've made clear ... we are not planning for a war with Iran," he told reporters.

The Bush administration has repeatedly warned Iran against fueling violence in Iraq, and U.S. forces there have detained a number of Iranian officials in raids since December.

"What we are trying to do is, in Iraq, counter what the Iranians are doing to our soldiers, their involvement and activities, particularly these explosively-formed projectiles that are killing our troops and we're trying to get them to stop their nuclear enrichment," Gates said.

The Pentagon has moved a second aircraft carrier into the Gulf as part of its effort to pressure Iran and show that the United States will stay active in the region.

Iran has long been at odds with the United States and Europe, pushing ahead with plans to enrich uranium as part of what Tehran says is a peaceful energy program. Washington and the others fear that Iran instead has been trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Anniversary in Iran
On Thursday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched anniversary celebrations for Iran's Islamic Revolution with a defiant promise to push ahead with the country's controversial nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad suggested Tehran would announce next week that it is beginning to install a new assembly of 3,000 centrifuges in an underground portion of its uranium enrichment facility at Natanz that the U.S. has warned could bring further sanctions against the country.

The Iranian leader said his government is determined to continue with its nuclear program, despite U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel to generate electricity or for the fissile core of an atomic bomb.

Kicking off 10 days of celebrations to mark the 28th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution that brought hard-line clerics to power, Ahmadinejad said Iran will celebrate next week "the stabilization and the establishment of its full right" to enrich uranium at the facility.

The chief of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, said last week that he expected Iran to announce "they are going to build up their 3,000 centrifuge facility" in February. There had been speculation the announcement could come during the revolution anniversary.