The U.S. government officials assured Israel that the option of attacking Iran over its nuclear program remains on the table, despite widespread Israeli concern that Washington has begun softening its position toward Tehran, According to The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.
The United States had not abandoned all possibility of a military attack on Iran, though U.S. officials are primarily seeking a diplomatic solution.
The message was conveyed by Bush administration officials in meetings Monday and Tuesday with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is on a visit to Washington, the report said.
At the same time, U.S. officials acknowledged that there is a rare divergence in the U.S. and Israeli approaches, with Israelis emphasizing the possibility of a military response out of concern that Tehran may soon have the know-how for building a nuclear bomb, according to the report.
U.S. and Israeli officials believe Iran is enriching uranium with the aim of building nuclear weapons, but Iran says that its nuclear program was for peaceful and civilian energy purposes.
Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said in an interview that U.S. officials have often made it clear to Israeli officials that Washington prefers to try to mitigate the threat from Tehran by applying economic pressure.
"The military option, although always available, is not our preferred route," Morrell said.
"We have made that point clear to them and the world in our public statements and private meetings," he said.
During his Washington visit, Barak was expected to try to talk the Bush administration out of what many Israelis perceive as a more conciliatory policy toward Iran.
On Tuesday, the Israeli Defense Ministry released a statement saying that Barak had told U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates that "a policy that consists of keeping all options on the table must be maintained."
(Xinhua News Agency July 31, 2008)