Conflict with Iran 'not desirable', 'not inevitable': US

Date: 04-13-07

LONDON (AFP) - Diplomacy must be given time to work in the West's stand-off with Iran over its controversial nuclear programme, the US undersecretary of state for political affairs said on Thursday, adding that conflict with Iran was not "desirable" or "inevitable."

Speaking to the BBC, Nicholas Burns said that the West had to have a "degree of patience" with diplomacy if it was to work, adding that there is still time for a diplomatic solution to the impasse.

"We've got some time to work here, and I think if diplomacy is to be pursued, and is to be successful, then we have to have a degree of patience about it," Burns told the broadcaster.

"You can't just react in an emotional way when you're talking about very serious issues."

He continued: "Our view is that a military conflict is not desirable, and it is certainly not inevitable, and if we can work skilfully together ... then we may be successful. We ought to give that a try."

Iran says its uranium enrichment programme is for peaceful, civilian purposes, but Western states suspect it may be used to develop a nuclear bomb, and have slapped sanctions on the Middle Eastern state in an effort to get it to suspend the programme.

Burns also said that in relation to Iran's alleged role arming Shiite militants in neighbouring Iraq, which the United States invaded in March 2003, and has a military presence of about 170,000 troops, America should try to convince Iran to "play a more productive role."

"The message to Iran is, we're not wishing to provoke a conflict with them, in fact we wish to have a peaceful relationship with Iran," Burns said, adding that the United States, would, however, defend its troops in Iraq if they came under attack.

"I would say that the focus of our efforts should be on the following: to try to convince the Iranian government to play a more productive role, a more positive role to enforce civility in Iraq itself."


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