Iran has maintained its conflicting nuclear message, test-firing nine long-range missiles, but rejecting the idea of war with the West as “a silly joke”. Washington accepts the missiles may have the range to hit Israel or US bases in the region, but the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates still insists diplomacy is the way forward.
“There is a lot of signalling going on,” he said. “But I think everybody recognises what the consequences of any kind of a conflict would be.”
Washington continues to accuse Tehran of trying to build nuclear weapons, despite Iran’s repeated denials. The Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, William Burns, said: “Iran reminded us again today that it is moving ahead on missile systems which could be used to deliver a weapon. It is hard not to conclude that Iran is developing nuclear capabilities.”
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed threats of war, but again rejected calls to abandon Iran’s nuclear programme. However, an aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran would respond to any attack by targeting Israel and US interests worldwide.
Ahmadinejad said he hoped for a fresh approach from the next US administration, after the “domineering hegemony” of President Bush.