- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2007

MADRID — The United States is not preparing for war against Iran and Vice President Dick Cheney supports that policy, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday, taking a swipe at a U.N. official who said he’s worried about “crazies” who want to start bombing.

“The president of the United States has made very clear what our policy is. That policy is supported by all the members of his Cabinet and by the vice president of the United States,” Miss Rice said.

“The president has made clear that we are on a diplomatic course,” she said.

Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency, was quoted by the British Broadcasting Corp. as warning against the views of “new crazies who say ‘let’s go and bomb Iran.’ ”

The vice president is frequently the administration’s most hawkish voice on Iran, but Miss Rice said she did not know to whom Mr. ElBaradei referred. The United States does not rule out military action but says there is no plan or intention to attack Iran.

Mr. Cheney has not publicly advocated an assault on Iran, but he used the deck of an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf last month to warn Tehran that Washington would prevent the Islamic republic from dominating the Middle East.

Also stepping up pressure on Iran was President Bush, who demanded yesterday that Iran “immediately and unconditionally” release four Iranian-Americans detained for purported espionage and provide information about a former FBI agent missing in the country.

Miss Rice was clearly annoyed by Mr. ElBaradei’s remarks, which were part of an interview the International Atomic Energy Agency chief gave for a documentary.

She said the United States is using diplomacy to avoid “getting to a place where we have an unpalatable choice.” She described that as a choice “between having to do something on the military side or allowing Iran to have a nuclear weapon. That’s a choice that people talk about.”

Miss Rice, who has tangled with Mr. ElBaradei before, suggested he is giving Iran mixed signals.

“We have a diplomatic choice, but it’s only going to succeed if we are absolutely clear with the Iranians — not muddying the message in any way,” she said.

Iran is getting the right message from the U.N. Security Council, which has ordered two rounds of sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program, and from the world at large, Miss Rice said.

“I expect them to hear it loud and clear from the IAEA, and from its director,” she said.

Separately, in what could be an attempt to delay the threat of new U.N. sanctions, Iran has pledged to cooperate with the nuclear monitoring agency probing its atomic program, an official told the Associated Press.

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