‘Window is closing on Iran of diplomacy’



Washington: Observing that Iranian nuclear programme poses a significant threat to the US and its allies, US Defence Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel has said the "window is closing" on Tehran of diplomacy if it continues to flout world demands to end pursuit of atomic weapons.

In a series of answers submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee ahead of his confirmation hearing tomorrow, 66-year-old Hagel supported the policy of President Barack Obama that no option should be out of the table when it comes to addressing the threat posed by Iran.

"While there is time and space for diplomacy, backed by pressure, the window is closing. Iran needs to demonstrate it is prepared to negotiate seriously," said Hagel, who has been nominated by President Barack Obama as next Defence Secretary.

If confirmed by the Senate, he would replace Leon Panetta as the Defence Secretary.

Hagel's answers to the Senate committee run into 112-page questionnaire, wherein India does not find any mention.

"Iran poses a significant threat to the United States, our allies and partners, and our interests in the region and globally. Iran continues to pursue an illicit nuclear programme that threatens to provoke a regional arms race and undermine the global non-proliferation regime," he said and warned that if Iran continues to flout its world obligations, it should continue to face severe and growing consequences.

"Iran is also one of the main state-sponsors of terrorism and could spark conflict, including against US personnel and interests," said Hagel, who dopted a hard line on Iran.

"I agree with the President that the United States should take no options off the table in our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. If confirmed, I will focus intently on ensuring that US military is in fact prepared for any contingency," Hagel said.

Obama, he said, has put in place and pursued effectively with support from the US Congress a strong, multi-vector strategy to deal with the threats that Iran poses to the United States, particularly its nuclear pursuits.

This strategy has included a strong diplomatic effort to test Iranian intentions, lay the ground work for an international coalition that holds Tehran accountable for its transgressions, and isolate Iran in the region and globally.

"This strategy has credibly, and smartly in my opinion, made clear that all options are on the table. I believe that this strategy has made it clear to Iran that the United States will do what it must to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and I will continue to implement this policy if confirmed," he said.

"I do believe that if Iran lives up to international obligations, it should have a path to a more prosperous and productive relationship with the international community and eventual rejoining of the community of nations," he added.

Hagel also said the threat posed by al-Qaeda to the US has diminished over the past four years, but expressed concern over the presence of the remaining leadership of the terrorist outfit in Pakistan and in Arabian Peninsula.

PTI