BRUSSELS —NATO has “no intention whatsoever” of intervening in Iran, the alliance’s top official said in response to reports that some governments may be planning a military strike against Tehran’s nuclear program.
The U.S. and other leading Western governments believe that Iran is intending to develop a nuclear arsenal, and Tehran’s failure to suspend its nuclear activities already has led to several sets of U.N. sanctions.
But Iran maintains that its nuclear program is exclusively civilian, aimed only at producing electricity.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly is trying to persuade his Cabinet to authorize a strike. Israel, which considers Tehran its biggest threat, successfully has tested a missile believed capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to Iran.
Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO supports political and diplomatic efforts to resolve the nuclear issue and urged Iran to comply with U.N. resolutions and stop its uranium-enrichment programs.
They were said to be practicing long-range sorties from the Decimomannu base on the Sardinia island and included combat aircraft, aerial refueling tankers and electronic warfare and control planes.
Later Thursday, Italian Defense Ministry spokesman Capt. Emiliano Biasco confirmed that an exercise involving Israel and other countries was held at Decimomannu in late October. He declined to give more details.
NATO cooperates closely with Israel as part of a group of friendly nations in the region, known as the Mediterranean Dialogue. Israeli warships have participated in exercises with NATO ships in the eastern Mediterranean.
Mr. Fogh Rasmussen visited the Jewish state earlier this year.
Tensions in the Middle East have peaked just after Turkey - a NATO member and Iran’s neighbor - agreed in September to host an early-warning radar as part of a planned NATO missile-defense system aimed at countering a possible threat from Iranian missiles.
Iran has blamed Israel and the United States for disruptions in its nuclear program, including the mysterious assassinations of several Iranian nuclear scientists and a computer virus that wiped out some of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges.
Tehran also has insisted that the international community deal with the issue of Israel’s own nuclear weapons. The Jewish state is widely believed to have accumulated a sizable arsenal, although it has never officially acknowledged possession of such weapons.
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