U.S. not planning for war with Iran, Gates says

Date: 02-02-07

By Andrew Gray

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is not planning for a war with Iran but is determined to stop Iranians supplying bombs for deadly attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Friday.

The Bush administration has stepped up its rhetoric against Iran in recent weeks, prompting speculation it could be laying the ground for a military attack.

The United States has also sent a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf region, a move widely seen as a warning to Iran.

But Gates said the United States was pursuing a purely diplomatic path to try to halt Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran says is for power generation but Washington says is aimed at producing nuclear weapons.

"The president has made clear, the secretary of state has made clear, I've made clear ... we are not planning for a war with Iran," Gates told reporters at the Pentagon.

"What we are trying to do is, in Iraq, counter what the Iranians are doing to our soldiers, their involvement and activities, particularly these explosively-formed projectiles (EFPs) that are killing our troops," Gates said.

The EFPs are metal containers filled with explosives, often capped with a copper lid which becomes a deadly projectile when the device is detonated.

They can penetrate even tanks and other heavily armored vehicles. U.S. officials have said they have evidence many of those used in Iraq were made in Iran.

"Our effort is aimed at uprooting the networks that are providing these EFPs," Gates said.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the U.S. military's joint chiefs of staff, said the United States was talking more about Iran's role in Iraq because recent efforts to disrupt those networks had led to Iranians.

"We are working day and night to disassemble these networks," Pace said at the same news conference. "It is instructive that at least twice in the last month, in going after the networks, we have picked up Iranians."

Gates said he was not sure if the United States knew yet whether those networks were officially sanctioned by Iran.

He said sending the second aircraft carrier was aimed partly at "potential adversaries" but should be seen mainly as reassuring U.S. allies in the Gulf that the United States was committed to the region.

"We simply want to reinforce to our friends in particular that they can count on us having a presence and being strong in their area in protecting our interests and in protecting theirs," Gates said.

(Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky)


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