Responding to Bush, Iran Says Has More War Options Than U.S.

Iranian FM steps up rhetorical battle with Washington after Bush remarks in interview to Israeli TV.

Iran notched up the rhetorical battle with the United States on Sunday, declaring its options, if attacked by Washington, far exceeded those of the Americans.

In an interview with Israeli Channel 1 TV on Friday, U.S. President George W. Bush said "all options are on the table" if Iran refused to comply with international demands to halt its nuclear program.

"I think Bush should know that our options are more numerous than the U.S. options," said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi. "If the United States makes such a big mistake, then Iran will definitely have more choices to defend itself."

He offered no specifics but characterized Bush's words as part of an ongoing psychological war against Iran.

Bush issued the veiled threat two days after Tehran resumed uranium conversion at its nuclear facility in Isfahan, a move which also prompted a warning from the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency.

Bush has called from continued diplomacy to halt Iran's nuclear program, with resort to U.N. Security Council sanctions only if all other diplomatic efforts fail.

In the interview, Bush said the United States and Israel "are united in our objective to make sure that Iran does not have a weapon."

But, he said, if diplomacy fails "all options are on the table. The use of force is the last option for any President. You know, we've used force in the recent past to secure our country."

For its part, Israel maintains a nuclear monopoly in the Middle East and is thought to have about 200 warheads deployed on ballistic missiles, aircraft and submarines, according to the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Israeli officials do not comment on the country's nuclear weapons potential.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of directors expressed "serious concern" Thursday over Iran's resumption of nuclear activities that could provide it with the fuel for a nuclear weapon.

Iran routinely insists its nuclear program is peaceful - designed only for electricity generation - and responded indignantly to the IAEA warning.

Under the IAEA resolution, Iran faces a September 3 deadline to stop uranium conversion or face possible referral to the Security Council, which can impose crippling economic sanctions.

Asefi said such deadlines were irrelevant because the IAEA has now power to restrict Iran's nuclear activity, which is legal under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.