Report: Washington concerned Israel gearing up to attack Iran
The Times reports U.S. fears Iranian nuclear developments will spark strike; Bush defends WWIII comments on Iran.
Washington officials are concerned that Tehran's announcement that it has 3,000 centrifuges fully working in its controversial uranium enrichment program will lead to an Israeli strike on Iran, the British daily The Times reported on Thursday.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced the landmark development on Wednesday.
Pentagon sources in Washington fear Israel could move to attack the uranium enrichment plant, as U.S. officials and foreign media reports confirmed it did a suspected Syrian nuclear facilily on September 6.
The Times report quoted military officials as saying that while the United States is hesitant to embark on an attack on Iran, Israel is a "different matter."
"We have now reached 3,000 machines," Ahmadinejad told thousands of Iranians gathered in Birjand, in eastern Iran, on Wednesday in a show of defiance of international demands to halt the program believed to be masking the country's nuclear arms efforts.
Ahmadinejad has in the past claimed that Iran succeeded in installing the 3,000 centrifuges at its uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. But Wednesday's claim was his first official statement that the plant is now fully operating all those centrifuges.
When Iran first announced launching the 3,000 centrifuges in April, the UN nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Tehran had only 328 centrifuges up and running at Natanz's underground facility.
Mofaz calls on IAEA chief to resign
Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz called on Thursday for Mohamed ElBaradei to be replaced as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, accusing him of complacency over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Mofaz told Israel Radio that ElBaradei should be replaced because of his "irresponsible and slow actions" in dealing with Iran. Mofaz heads an Israeli team that regularly discusses strategic issues with the United States.
ElBaradei is expected to issue another report on November 22 on the progress of Iran's nuclear program, findings that could be key to whether the United Nations decides to impose a third set of sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Bush defends World War Three comments on IranU.S. President George W. Bush defended in a television interview on Wednesday his recent comments suggesting Iran's nuclear ambitions might trigger World War Three and insisted he wanted a diplomatic solution.
Bush told a news conference last month that preventing Iran from building nuclear weapons would be a means of avoiding a new global conflict.
"The reason I said that is because this is a country that has defied the IAEA - in other words, didn't disclose all their program - have said they want to destroy Israel," Bush said in the interview with German broadcaster RTL.
"If you want to see World War Three, you know, a way to do that is to attack Israel with a nuclear weapon," Bush added. "And so I said, now is the time to move. It wasn't a prediction, nor a desire."
Asked whether there was a point when the United States would decide military action was the only possible option for dealing with Iran, Bush said: "I would never say that."
"I would say that we would always try to try diplomacy first," he said. "In other words, I - I've committed our troops into harm's way twice, and it's not a pleasant experience because I understand the consequences firsthand.
"And so I owe it to the American people to say that I've tried to solve this problem diplomatically. And that's exactly what I intend to do. And I believe we can do it, so long as the world works in concert."
Iran says its atomic work is to make electricity, not bombs.
The interview was conducted on Tuesday and RTL released the quotes on Wednesday ahead of a visit to Bush's Texas ranch by German Chancellor Angela Merkel later this week.