Panetta, MacKay Share Concerns on Iran

September 29, 2012

U.S. policy toward Iran’s nuclear capability “is not about containment, it’s about prevention,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said here today, in reference to what Western nations believe is Tehran’s attempt to enrich enough uranium to acquire a nuclear weapon.

Panetta and Canadian Defense Minister Peter G. MacKay spoke to the Pentagon press corps following a meeting during which they discussed bilateral relations, Western Hemisphere concerns, Afghanistan and the Middle East with a particular emphasis on Iran.

The British Royal Fleet Auxiliary amphibious assault vessel RFA Cardigan Bay (L3009), left, the mine countermeasures ship USS Sentry (MCM 3), the British Royal navy destroyer HMS Diamond (D 34), and the mine countermeasures ship USS Devastator (MCM 6) transit in formation in the Gulf of Oman. The coalition force is operating in support of International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) 2012 as part of Task Force South. IMCMEX 12 includes navies from more than 30 countries and focuses on promoting regional security through mine countermeasure operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Micah Murphy/Released)

In their session with reporters, both stressed they want the Iranian government to respond to diplomacy and international sanctions aimed at thwarting suspected efforts to develop a nuclear weapon.

Canada has deep concerns about the Iranian nuclear program and recently closed its embassy in Tehran. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen J. Harper has called Iran the most dangerous place on Earth, and spoke of the “clear and present danger” that Iran poses to the world during a speech to the United Nations.

There were questions at today’s joint news conference about red lines for Iran regarding its alleged nuclear ambitions. “There have been a number of red lines placed already, and Iran has edged closer and stepped over those red lines on a number of occasions now, particularly when it comes to cooperation around the subject of inspections,” MacKay said.

On Syria, Panetta said there were indications the Syrian military had moved some chemical weapons in recent weeks, but that the main bases with these armaments remain secure.

In their meeting, Panetta and MacKay also discussed the need for greater security collaboration across the Western Hemisphere, particularly for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. “We think that’s a real potential for bringing countries together in a common effort,” Panetta said. He hopes this will be part of the agenda at the Defense Ministerial of the Americas beginning next week in Uruguay.

Panetta thanked MacKay for Canada’s steadfast support in Afghanistan where it has deployed about 500 troops who are training Afghan national security forces.

There is progress and there is hope” in Afghanistan, MacKay said.

“This is what we had always anticipated, is the eventual turnover of security responsibility will allow … Afghanistan and hopefully the region, to spread that security and spread that hope,” he said.

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