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US admiral urges caution on Iran

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US admiral urges caution on Iran

America's top military officer has said opening up a new 
front in the Middle East through a strike on Iran would 
be "extremely stressful" for US forces. 

Adm Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 
was commenting on the likelihood of US or Israeli military 
action over Iran's nuclear programme. 

Tensions have risen amid reports Israel could be planning 
a possible strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. 

Iran denies its nuclear programme is anything other than 
peaceful. 

The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says it has been clear 
for some time that Adm Mullen does not want to attack Iran.

But his latest remarks suggest he is fighting hard behind 
the scenes for both the US and Israel to think carefully 
about the consequences of an attack before considering 
mounting it, he says.

This is a very unstable part of the world and I don't need 
it to be more unstable 
- Adm Mike Mullen

At a US defence department news conference, Adm Mullen 
refused to say what Israeli leaders told him during 
meetings last week about any plan to strike Iran. 

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But he warned that opening up a third front, after Iraq 
and Afghanistan, would be "extremely stressful, very 
challenging, with consequences that would be difficult 
to predict". 

Asked if he was concerned Israel would strike before the 
end of the year, he said: "This is a very unstable part 
of the world and I don't need it to be more unstable." 

The admiral said that if a conflict began, he believed 
Iran would have the capability to disrupt ship traffic 
through the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a waterway 
near the Gulf, but he would not say if the US Navy was 
stepping up its patrols in the region. 

He said: "I believe [Iran is] still on a path to get 
nuclear weapons and I think that's something that needs 
to be deterred." 

He added: "My position with regard to the Iranian regime 
hasn't changed. They remain a destabilising factor in the 
region. 

"But I'm convinced that the solution still lies in using 
other elements of national power to change Iranian 
behaviour, including diplomatic, financial and 
international pressure." 

He called for dialogue between the US and Tehran.

Adm Mullen's boss, US President George W Bush, has also 
been asked about recent speculation that there might be 
a military strike on Iran. 

The president has said all options were on the table but 
that military action would not be his first choice. His 
senior soldiers will be pleased to hear it, our Washington 
correspondent says. 

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