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International Pressure Best Response to Iranian Threat, Gates Says

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2007 – The best way to confront Iran’s nuclear weapons program is through international diplomatic pressure, and military force should remain a last resort, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today at Kansas State University. (Video)

Gates told participants in the Landon Lecture series in Manhattan, Kan., he supports diplomatic pressure to get Iran to abandon its nuclear efforts.

“We are engaged in diplomacy with Iran,” he said. “More importantly, we are engaged in diplomacy with a number of countries around the world and trying to secure their support for economic sanctions to bring pressure on the Iranian government to resolve this nuclear problem in a peaceful way.”

Gates noted that most countries in the world, and all members of the U.N. Security Council, have called on the Iranians to halt.

Only if the Iranian leadership shows some indication it’s willing to budge would higher-level meetings be appropriate, he said. “The administration has made clear that it is prepared to have broader dialog if (the Iranians) make commitments to stop enriching,” he said.

As the United States works with other countries around the world to address threats posed by Iran and elsewhere, Gates said he’s been pleased to see a shift in any anti-American sentiment that may have existed.

In his travels to 40 to 45 countries during his 11 months as defense secretary, Gates said, he “didn’t run into a single one that does not want to work with the United States and does not want a better relationship with the United States.” That included visits to Russia and China.

He pointed to shifts in both the French and German governments. “The new French president is amazingly pro-American and is looking for ways to cooperate with us,” he said. “The German government of Angela Merkel is very different from the government of her predecessors.”

Gates pointed to broad interest in the U.S.-sponsored Annapolis Conference, which begins today, as another positive sign that nations of the world want to work with the United States.

“If you look at the number of Arab countries that have come to the Annapolis Conference, including Syria, I think it indicates the continuing and ensuring strength of our democracy,” he said.

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Robert M. Gates

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