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Blair is warned about an attack on Iran


LONDON -- Foreign policy specialists warned Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday that military action against Iran could worsen violence across the Middle East and urged him to persuade the United States to hold talks with Tehran.

The report from a coalition of think tanks, unions, and aid groups is the latest of several high-profile appeals to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Iran's nuclear program, arguing that military action could be highly dangerous and counterproductive.

"There are circumstances in which military action might have to be taken, but they are more circumscribed than simply saying we have a hunch that this country has got a nuclear program, therefore let's zap it just in case," Sir Richard Dalton, Britain's ambassador to Iran in 2002-06, said at a press conference.

President Bush and other Western leaders have said there are no plans to attack Iran, but Washington also warns that military action remains an option as the UN Security Council presses Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment and allay suspicions it is developing atomic bombs.

Bush recently raised the US naval presence in the Persian Gulf to its highest level since 2003 by ordering a second aircraft carrier strike group to the region. He also has authorized the US military to kill or capture Iranian agents in Iraq plotting attacks on American forces.

Iran denies it is trying to develop atomic weapons in violation of treaty promises, saying it is working on uranium enrichment only to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that would generate electricity.

Yesterday's paper, "Time to Talk," said a military strike on Iran could further destabilize neighboring Iraq.