- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 30, 2005

From combined dispatches

MANAMA, Bahrain — The United States and Gulf Arab states are discussing ways of pressuring Iran over a perceived threat from Tehran’s nuclear and missile programs, the top U.S. diplomat in charge of disarmament said yesterday.

Undersecretary of State John Bolton told reporters in Bahrain that he was trying to coordinate policies toward Iran with its Gulf Arab neighbors and that Washington sought a “peaceful and diplomatic solution” to what he sees as a threat against U.S. allies in the region.

“For the United States, the threat posed by Iran is not direct. In other words, they do not, at the current level of development, have the capacity to launch a nuclear war-headed missile that could strike the United States,” Mr. Bolton said.

“But they can strike our friends and allies in the region and the broader region here,” he said.

During his talks in Bahrain, Mr. Bolton said, “We discussed ways of putting additional diplomatic pressure on Iran to prevent it from acquiring the technology they need for a nuclear-weapons program and also elaborated the steps we see coming in the future.”

The Bush administration accuses Tehran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian atomic-energy program — a charge that Iran denies.

“We want to get the views of some of the countries most threatened by nuclear-capable Iran,” said Mr. Bolton, who has visited Kuwait and will travel to the United Arab Emirates during his visit to the oil-rich region.

“The central purpose of discussion in these three countries is to exchange views on the threat that we see posed by Iran’s nuclear-weapon program and its ballistic-missile program.”

Iran has said it would continue to improve its missile capability and has unveiled the latest version of its medium-range Shahab-3 that it says could hit targets up to 1,250 miles away.

Earlier this month, President Bush said he could not rule out using force if Tehran failed to rein in its nuclear plans, and Vice President Dick Cheney said Iran was “right at the top of the list” of global trouble spots.

Mr. Cheney also warned that Israel might stage a pre-emptive strike to shut down Iran’s nuclear program.

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