US vice-president Dick Cheney has warned Iran of “serious consequences” should it continue to develop a nuclear weapon.
“The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences,” Cheney said at a Washington Institute for Near East Policy gathering on Sunday.
“The United States joins other nations in sending a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.” US officials in recent weeks have ratcheted up warnings to Iran to roll back its suspected nuclear weapons program. President Bush last week described an Iran with nuclear weapons know-how as likely to lead to “World War III.” Such expressions go beyond earlier US statements that mostly have been limited to pledges to intensify economic sanctions against Iran. Iran claims its nuclear program is peaceful.
Meanwhile, Israel’s prime minister Ehud Olmert slammed the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for downplaying the Iranian nuclear threat.
Mohamed ElBaradei told France’s Le Monde newspaper that Iran would not be a nuclear threat for at least three years since the country was three to eight years away from producing an atomic bomb. ElBaradei said there was plenty of time to try diplomatic options like negotiation, sanctions and incentives before resorting to force. He said Iraq was an example of how the use of force can make the problem worse.
On his visit to France, Olmert criticized ElBaradei’s remarks, saying: “If ElBaradei thinks that a nuclear bomb within three years should not concern me, then I am concerned. I think it would have been preferable if ElBaradei made an effort to stop them from obtaining a bomb.”