- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 16, 2012

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta on Thursday reiterated the Pentagon’s limits for Iran’s nuclear program and the Islamic republic’s aggression in the Persian Gulf during a House Appropriations Committee hearing.

“We will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Panetta told lawmakers.

Iran needs to take steps to ensure that that does not happen, they do not develop that kind of nuclear capability,” he added.

His comments came a day after Iran announced new achievements in creating nuclear rods and mastering atomic chain reactions.

Mr. Panetta said that current intelligence does not show that Iran has begun to develop a nuclear weapon, but that it continues to develop its enrichment capabilities.

He also said the U.S. would not allow Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which one-fifth of the world’s oil is transported, and that diplomatic and economic sanctions against Iran’s oil sector are having an impact.

Iran is increasingly isolated in the world,” the defense chief said. “We are open, obviously, to negotiating with them, to try to find a diplomatic solution to these issues.”

However, “we do keep all options on the table in case any red lines are crossed,” he said.