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Giuliani warns Iranians against nuclear ambitions

September 20, 2007|Michael Finnegan | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani said Wednesday that if Iran got close to building a nuclear weapon, "we will prevent them or we'll set them back five or 10 years."

"That is not said as a threat," Giuliani said during a visit to London. "That should be said as a promise."

Giuliani's remarks fit his broader effort to project himself as the toughest Republican in the race when it comes to national security.

Many of Giuliani's opponents in the White House race -- Republicans and Democrats -- have also expressed willingness to take action to stop Iran from building nuclear arms.

"The real question is to what extent are they sending signals they're prepared to go to war, to make a military strike," said Thomas Mann, a government scholar at the Brookings Institution. "It's fair to say Giuliani has pushed that card further than any other candidate."

The former New York mayor's comments Wednesday were among his most explicit on Iran. They came amid a series of tough statements on Iran this week by Republican rival Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor.

On Monday, Romney called on the United Nations to revoke its invitation to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to address the General Assembly next week. On Wednesday, Romney demanded that New York City reject Ahmadinejad's "shockingly audacious request" to visit the site of the World Trade Center collapse.

Hours later, Giuliani issued a statement from London calling the Iranian's request "outrageous." Around the same time, the New York Police Department turned the request down on security grounds.

Giuliani's visit to London was in part to raise campaign money from Americans living in Britain. He also used the trip to burnish his image on foreign policy. He met with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and spoke to reporters outside Brown's residence at 10 Downing St. Giuliani also met with former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher.

Giuliani said he discussed Iran with Brown and Blair, and with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on the phone Tuesday.

"The policy of the United States of America should be very, very clear that we will use any option we believe is in our best interest to stop them from becoming a nuclear power, and that we're not going to allow that to happen," Giuliani said.

If Iranian leaders grasp the firmness of U.S. resolve to block their nuclear ambitions, he said, "there is a better chance that we will never have to use military options in dealing with it."

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michael.finnegan@latimes.com

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