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War and peace on America lips
- Bush keeps Iran on toes

Washington, Jan. 18: President George W. Bush has said he would not rule out military action against Iran if that country was not more forthcoming about its suspected nuclear weapons programme.

'I hope we can solve it diplomatically, but I will never take any option off the table,' Bush told NBC News yesterday in an interview, when asked if he would rule out the potential for military action against Iran 'if it continues to stonewall the international community about the existence of its nuclear weapons programme.'

Iran, which denies it has been trying to make nuclear weapons and says its nuclear programme is geared solely to producing electricity, today said it has the military might to deter attacks against it.

Iranian defence minister Ali Shamkhani said the Islamic Republic, which has seen US forces topple regimes in neighbouring Afghanistan and Iraq in the last three years, did not fear attack.

'We are able to say that we have strength such that no country can attack us because they do not have precise information about our military capabilities due to our ability to implement flexible strategies,' the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Shamkhani as saying. 'We can claim that we have rapidly produced equipment that has resulted in the greatest deterrent,' he said, without elaborating.

Chinese firms

The US imposed penalties this month against some of China's largest companies for aiding Iran's efforts to improve its ballistic missiles. The move is part of an effort by the White House and American intelligence agencies to identify and slow important elements of Iran's weapons programmes.

However, the White House made no public announcement of the penalties and the state department placed a one-page notice on page 133 of The Federal Register early this month listing eight Chinese companies affected.

Two of the largest companies cited in the list, China Great Wall Industry Corporation and China North Industry Corporation, known as Norinco, have been repeatedly penalised for more than a decade; each is closely linked to the Chinese military.

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