Leon Panetta - Reuters - 10.11.2011
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, November 10, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday that military action against Iran's contentious nuclear program could have unintended consequences, and ought to be a 'last resort'.

Panetta said he agreed with earlier assessments that a strike would only set Iran's nuclear program back by three years at most, adding that military action could fail to deter Iran and also have repercussions for other countries in the region and for U.S. forces based in the area
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The defense secretary's comments came following a new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which said for the first time that Iran is suspected of conducting secret experiments whose sole purpose is the development of nuclear arms.

Iran insists it is pursuing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and has warned it would lash back if attacked.

Israel on Wednesday called on the world to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, after the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Tehran appeared to have worked on designing an atomic bomb and may still be conducting secret research.

Speculation about an attack on Iran was fuelled last week when Israel, widely assumed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, test-launched a long-range missile and by comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Tehran's nuclear program posed a "direct and heavy" threat.

Also voicing his objection of possible military strike of Iran's nuclear facilities, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon supported earlier Thursday a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff with Tehran.

"He [Ban] reiterates his call for Iran's compliance with all relevant resolutions of the Security Council and the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters.

"The secretary-general reiterates his belief that a negotiated rather than a military solution is the only way to resolve this issue," he said.

Ban's comments came as both China and Russia have voiced their support of continued dialogue with Tehran over its contentious nuclear program, calling possible fresh sanctions on the Islamic Republic unproductive.

"We, as always, believe that dialogue and cooperation are the only effective approaches for properly resolving the Iran nuclear issue," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

"Imposing pressure and sanctions cannot fundamentally resolve the issue," he added.

Russian officials even went as far as stating earlier Thursday that Moscow was weighing whether to provide Iran with more nuclear reactors, in addition to the one in Bushehr, which recently went into operation.

קראו כתבה זו בעברית: שר ההגנה האמריקאי: תקיפת איראן תסיג את תוכנית הגרעין שלוש שנים לכל היותר