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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Iran strike talk 'premature,' top U.S. general says

(CNN) -- The United States believes talk of military strikes against Iran's

nuclear program is "premature" and has advised Israel that an attack would be counterproductive, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says.

In an interview aired Sunday on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Gen. Martin Dempsey said U.S. officials aren't convinced Iran has decided to pursue nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, economic and diplomatic sanctions are taking a toll on the Islamic republic, he said.

"On that basis, I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us," Dempsey said.

The comments from Dempsey, a former Army chief of staff who served two tours of duty in Iraq, comes amid a period of saber-rattling in the Persian Gulf region. Israel has made clear that it considers a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat and has made clear that it is pondering an attack on Tehran's nuclear infrastructure, while Iran responded by warning it could cut off the narrow strait through which oil tankers sail in and out of the gulf.

Iran says it is producing enriched uranium to fuel civilian power plants and has refused international demands to halt its production of that fuel. But the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, reported in November that it had information to suggest Iran had carried out some weapons-related research, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it is up to Iran to disprove the allegation.

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