Turkey sees progress over Iran; US rules out military strike for now

By AGENCIES


Updated: Apr 22, 2010

ANKARA: Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has reported progress in
efforts to resolve tension between Iran and Western powers over the Islamic
republic's nuclear program, in remarks published on Wednesday.

Asked whether "certain progress has been made" in his talks with Iranian
officials in Tehran on Tuesday, Davutoglu answered "yes," speaking to Turkey's
English-language Today's Zaman newspaper.

"What is most important is the fact that the Iranian side is very receptive.
There are also steps that I will take from now on. I'm very hopeful," he was
quoted as saying.

Turkey, a UN Security Council member opposed to fresh sanctions against
Iran, insists the dispute should be resolved through diplomatic means and
has offered to act as a mediator.

Turkey "is ready to act as an intermediary in the issue of uranium exchange
as a third country and hopes to have a fruitful role in this," Davutoglu
said in Tehran Tuesday.

The United States welcomed Turkey's mediation efforts, but expressed renewed
skepticism about Iran's willingness to engage in talks.

"I'll only say in order to play a mediation role, you have to have a country
like Iran that is actually willing to engage seriously, and that's what's
been lacking over the past several months," State Department spokesman
Philip Crowley said Tuesday.

The US has ruled out a military strike against Iran's nuclear program any
time soon.

"Military force is an option of last resort," Undersecretary of Defense for
Policy Michele Flournoy said during a press briefing in Singapore. "It's off
the table in the near term."

"Right now the focus is a combination of engagement and pressure in the form
of sanctions," Flournoy said.

Meanwhile, Iran's Revolutionary Guards will begin three days of maneuvers in
the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday to show their naval strength,
the semi-official Fars News Agency reported on Wednesday.

"Maintaining security in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, as the world's
key economic and energy routes, is the main goal of the war games," Fars
quoted Brigadier General Hossein Salami as saying. "This war game is not a
threat for any friendly countries," he said.


Naval, air and ground forces from the Guards will take part.

Iran armed forces often hold maneuvers in an apparent bid to show their
readiness to deter any military action by Israel or the United States.


© 2010 Arab News