WASHINGTON , Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Washington needs "a range of options" to counter the growing nuclear ambitions of Iran, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said U.S. defense planners needed a variety of options to contain Iran, but emphasized the use of diplomatic and economic pressure.
"We owe the (defense) secretary and the president a range of options for this threat. We owe the American people our readiness," Mullen, who returned to Washington this week following an official tour of the Middle East, said in a Pentagon release. "But as I've said many times, I worry a lot about the unintended consequences of any sort of military action."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently announced the first batch of uranium was enriched to 20 percent and turned over to scientists. He said Iranian scientists were capable of enriching uranium further to weapons grade but wouldn't do so.
Nuclear officials in Iran, meanwhile, announced plans to launch construction on new enrichment facilities starting at the beginning of the Iranian new year in March.
Mullen said U.S. allies in the Middle East shared a common opinion that Iranian activity in the region had a potentially destabilizing effect.
"Like us, it isn't just a nuclear-capable Iranian military our friends worry about," he said. "It's an Iran with hegemonic ambitions and a desire to dominate its neighbors."