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US will not allow Iran to build nuclear weapons, Cheney says

Vice President Dick Cheney warned Iran. Vice President Dick Cheney warned Iran.

LEESBURG, Va. - The United States and other nations will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, Vice President Dick Cheney said yesterday.

"Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions," Cheney said in a speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.

He said Iran's efforts to pursue technology that would allow it to build a nuclear weapon are obvious and that "the regime continues to practice delay and deceit in an obvious effort to buy time."

If Iran continues on its current course, Cheney said the United States and other nations are "prepared to impose serious consequences."

"We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon," he said.

Cheney's words seemed to only escalate the US rhetoric against Iran over the past several days, including President Bush's warning that a nuclear Iran could lead to "World War III."

Cheney said the ultimate goal of the Iranian leadership is to establish itself as the hegemonic force in the Middle East and undermine a free Shi'ite-majority Iraq as a rival for influence in the Muslim world.

Iran's government seeks "to keep Iraq in a state of weakness to ensure Baghdad does not pose a threat to Tehran," Cheney said.

While he was critical of that government and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he offered praise and words of solidarity to the Iranian people. Iran "is a place of unlimited potential . . . and it has the right to be free of tyranny," Cheney said.

Cheney accused Iran of having a direct role in the deaths of US soldiers in Iraq and said the government has "solidified its grip on the country" since coming to power in 1979.

The United States and some allies accuse Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons and have demanded it halt uranium enrichment, an important step in the production of atomic weapons. Iran, an oil-producing nation, says its program is for peaceful purposes, including generating electricity.

At a press conference Wednesday, Bush suggested that if Iran obtained nuclear weapons, it could lead to a new world war.

"I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," Bush said.

Bush's spokeswoman later said the president was not making any war plans but rather "a rhetorical point." On Thursday, the top officer in the US military said the United States has the resources to attack Iran if needed despite the strains of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Navy Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said striking Iran is a last resort, and the focus is now on diplomacy to stem Iran's nuclear ambitions, but "there is more than enough reserve to respond" militarily if need be.

Last month the Senate approved a resolution urging the State Department to label Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. Senator Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, said he feared the measure could be interpreted as authorizing a military strike in Iran, calling it Cheney's "fondest pipe dream."

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