- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 18, 2006

[4:04 p.m.]

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today warned that Iran would “cut off the hand of any aggressor” and insisted that the country’s military must be prepared amid escalating tensions with the international community over its disputed nuclear program.

The defiant stance came hours before a meeting in Moscow of senior diplomats from the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany to discuss the issue and less than two weeks before a council deadline for Iran to stop uranium enrichment.

“Today, you are among the world’s most powerful armies because you rely on God,” Mr. Ahmadinejad declared at a parade to commemorate Army Day.

“Iran’s enemies know your courage, faith and commitment to Islam, and the land of Iran has created a powerful army that can powerfully defend the political borders and the integrity of the Iranian nation and cut off the hand of any aggressor and place the sign of disgrace on their forehead,” he said.

The United States, Britain, Japan, Israel, France and Germany have accused Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to produce nuclear weapons. Iran has maintained its right to enrich uranium and says it is only building nuclear facilities to generate electricity.

President Bush said today that “all options are on the table” to prevent Iran from developing atomic weapons but that he would continue to focus on the international diplomatic option to persuade Tehran to drop its nuclear ambitions.

“We want to solve this issue diplomatically, and we’re working hard to do so,” Mr. Bush told reporters in the Rose Garden.

Mr. Bush also said there should be a unified effort involving countries that “recognize the danger of Iran having a nuclear weapon” and that U.S. officials are working closely with nations such as Great Britain, France and Germany on the issue.

Mr. Bush was asked if his administration was planning for the possibility of a nuclear strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

“All options are on the table,” he said.

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