- Associated Press - Sunday, February 5, 2012

MUNICH (AP) — Arab and Turkish officials slammed talk of a military strike against Iran, saying Sunday it would be a disaster for the region and calling for renewed negotiations, while also urging the international community to keep pressure on Syria to end the bloodshed there.

In the wake of suggestions that military strikes are an increasing possibility if sanctions fail to rein in Iran‘s nuclear program, Qatar’s minister for international cooperation told a gathering of the world’s top security and defense officials that Arab nations rejected the idea.

“Knowing the region very well, I think this is not a solution,” Khaled al-Attiyah, the Qatar minister, said at the Munich Security Conference.

He also dismissed the idea of tightening sanctions further, saying that negotiations with Iran were needed “to get out of this dilemma.”

So far, the West is relying primarily on the threat of economic sanctions to pressure Iran over its nuclear program. Washington and its allies fear Iran could use its uranium enrichment labs, which make nuclear fuel, eventually to produce weapons-grade material. Tehran insists it only seeks reactors for energy and medical research.

Ahmet Davutoglu, the foreign minister of Turkey — Iran‘s neighbor to the north — said the international community was discussing three approaches toward Tehran at the moment: negotiations, sanctions or military action.

“From our perspective the worst is the military option; the best is negotiations,” he said, adding that further sanctions could hinder negotiations.

“The military option will create a disaster in our region,” he added.

The two spoke in a panel discussion on “the new Middle East,” during which much of the focus was on the international outrage over a devastating bombardment of the Syrian city of Homs by President Bashar Assad’s forces.

Russia and China on Saturday vetoed a U.N. resolution based on an Arab League proposal that was aimed at ending the bloodshed.

In the wake of the vote, Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali urged others to follow his country’s example and expel Syria’s ambassadors as a sign to protesters there that Mr. Assad has no international legitimacy.

“The war that Bashar Assad is leading is a war against humanity,” he said, “and this requires a very strong response by the international community.”

He added, “The very least that we can do is to cut our relations to the Syrian regime.”

Ahead of the vote on Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the conference that Russia thought the resolution made too few demands of the groups opposing the Syrian regime.

He also said Russia believed the Security Council should “not engage in domestic affairs of member states.”

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