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Cheney leaves open military option against Iran

Vice President Dick Cheney left open the possibility of U.S. military action against Iran over its nuclear ambitions, saying Saturday that "all options are still on the table."
/ Source: The Associated Press

Vice President Dick Cheney renewed Washington's criticism of Iran on Saturday, saying "all options" remained on the table to deal with that country's regime after it ignored a U.N. deadline to halt uranium enrichment and said it would defy foreign pressure.

Cheney, speaking at a joint news conference with Australia's Prime Minister John Howard, said the United States remained "deeply concerned" about Iran's activities, including the "aggressive" sponsoring of terrorist group Hezbollah and inflammatory statements by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He said top U.S. officials would meet soon with European allies to decide the next step toward planned tough sanctions against Iran for its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

"We worked with the European community and the United Nations to put together a set of policies to persuade the Iranians to give up their aspirations and resolve the matter peacefully, and that is still our preference," Cheney said.

"But I've also made the point, and the president has made the point, that all options are on the table," he said, appearing to leave open the possibility of military action.

The White House has previously made similar comments.

"We believe it would be a serious mistake if a nation such as Iran became a nuclear power," he said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Thursday that Iran had not only ignored a U.N. Security Council ultimatum to freeze the enrichment program, but had expanded that program by setting up hundreds of centrifuges. Enriched uranium fuels nuclear reactors but, enriched further, is used in nuclear bombs.

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns will travel to London on Monday to meet with the United States' negotiating partners to try to draft a new resolution on Iran that could include tough economic and military sanctions.

The IAEA report came after the expiration Wednesday of a 60-day grace period for Iran to halt uranium enrichment.

Ahmadinejad has adopted a defiant tone, telling a crowd in northern Iran on Thursday that "the Iranian nation has resisted all bullies and corrupt powers and it will fully defend all its rights," according to state television.

The hard-line president appeared to dismiss the IAEA report to the U.N. Security Council, though he did not directly name either organization, or the United States.

"If a few states do not believe that Iran's nuclear activities are peaceful, this is of no importance whatsoever," he was quoted as saying by state television.