BRUSSELS - NATO has "no intention whatsoever" of intervening in Iran, the alliance's top official said in response to reports that some governments may be planning a military strike against Tehran's nuclear program.
One of those reports came from the Guardian newspaper, which claimed the U.K. military is preparing "contingency planning for potential military action against Iran amid mounting concern about Tehran's nuclear enrichment programme."
The Ministry of Defense in the U.K. allegedly believes the U.S. will consider targeted missile strikes at Iranian nuclear facilities if the Islamic Republic is truly close to being capable of building a nuclear bomb, the Guardian reports.
For its part, Obama administration officials have at no point even hinted at such a possibility. Still, President Obama has expressed a growing alarm at Iran's nuclear program.
AfterThursday, Mr. Obama said Iran's nuclear program continues to pose a threat, and that he and the president of France want the international community to keep pressuring Iran to come clean about its intentions.
Obama commented Thursday as the International Atomic Energy Agency was preparing to soon reveal intelligence on Iran's alleged nuclear arms experiments.
Whether or not the West acts on Iran, Israel might go after it alone, as they are the most likely target of any missiles from Tehran. An Israeli official said Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to persuade his Cabinet to authorize a military strike against Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program -- a discussion that happened just as Israelbelieved capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to Iran.
The U.S. and other leading Western governments believe that Iran is intending to develop a nuclear arsenal, and Tehran's failure to suspend its nuclear activities has already led to several sets of U.N. sanctions. But Iran maintains its nuclear program is exclusively civilian, aimed only at producing electricity.
Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO supports political and diplomatic efforts to resolve the nuclear issue and urged Iran to comply with U.N. resolutions and stop its uranium enrichment programs.
"Let me stress that NATO has no intention whatsoever to intervene in Iran, and NATO is not engaged as an alliance in the Iran question," he said.
However, Fogh Rasmussen declined to comment on reports that Israeli air force jets conducted drills last week at a NATO air base in Italy. They were said to be practicing long-range sorties from the Decimomannu base on the Sardinia island and included combat aircraft, aerial refueling tankers and electronic warfare and control planes.
Later Thursday, Italian Defense Ministry spokesman Capt. Emiliano Biasco confirmed that an exercise involving Israel and other countries was held at Decimomannu in late October. He declined to give more details.
NATO cooperates closely with Israel as part of a group of friendly nations in the region, known as the Mediterranean Dialogue. Israeli warships have participated in exercises with NATO ships in the eastern Mediterranean.
Fogh Rasmussen visited the Jewish state earlier this year.
Tensions in the Middle East have peaked just after Turkey a NATO member and Iran's neighbor agreed in September to host an early warning radar as part of a planned NATO missile defense system aimed at countering a possible threat from Iranian missiles.
Iran has blamed Israel and the United States for disruptions in its nuclear program, including the mysterious assassinations of a string of Iranian nuclear scientists and a computer virus that wiped out some of Iran's nuclear centrifuges.
Tehran has also insisted that the international community deal with the issue of Israel's own nuclear weapons. The Jewish state is widely believed to have accumulated a sizable arsenal, although it has never officially acknowledged possession of such weapons.