* Iran does not have capacity or intent to attack U.S. -
* Turkey says attack on Iran would be disaster, wants more
* Tehran launches more military exercises, threatens
(Recasts with Obama quotes, adds background)
By Laura MacInnis and Parisa Hafezi
WASHINGTON/TEHRAN, Feb 5 U.S. President
Barack Obama said on Sunday there were important risks to
consider before any military strike against Iran and made clear
he does not want to see more conflict in the oil-producing Gulf
In a television interview, Obama also said he did not
believe Tehran had the "intentions or capabilities" to attack
the United States, playing down the threats from Tehran and
saying he wanted a diplomatic end to the nuclear standoff.
"Any kind of additional military activity inside the Gulf is
disruptive and has a big effect on us. It could have a big
effect on oil prices. We've still got troops in Afghanistan,
which borders Iran. And so our preferred solution here is
diplomatic," Obama said.
His comments echoed concerns expressed by earlier by Iran's
neighbor Turkey that an attack on Iran would be disastrous.
Obama, who is up for re-election in November, has ended the
U.S. war in Iraq and is winding down combat in Afghanistan amid
growing public discontent about American war spending at a time
when the economy remains shaky.
He said Israel had not yet decided what to do in response to
the escalating tension but was "rightly" concerned about
"My number one priority continues to be the security of the
United States, but also the security of Israel, and we are going
to make sure that we work in lockstep as we proceed to try to
solve this, hopefully diplomatically," he told NBC.
Iranian leaders have responded sharply to speculation that
Israel could bomb Iran within months to stop it from assembling
nuclear weapons, threatening to retaliate against any country
that launches an attack against the Islamic Republic.
Iran says its nuclear program is meant to produce energy,
But its recent shift of uranium enrichment to a mountain
bunker - possibly impervious to conventional bombing - and
refusal to negotiate peaceful guarantees for the program or open
up to U.N. inspectors have raised fears about Iran's ambitions
as well as concerns about Gulf oil supplies.
Although tough sanctions from the United States and Europe
have begun to inflict economic pain in Iran, its oil minister
asserted on Saturday it would make no nuclear retreat even if
its energy exports ground to a halt.
Betraying nervousness about the possibility of a military
strike on Iran, two of its neighbors - Qatar and Turkey - urged
Western powers on Sunday to make greater efforts to negotiate a
solution to the nuclear dispute.
Speaking at a security conference in Munich, Turkish Foreign
Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said an attack would be a disaster and
suggested the dispute over Iran's nuclear program could be ended
"If there is strong political will and mutual confidence
being established, this issue could be resolved in a few days,"
he said. "The technical disputes are not so big. The problem is
mutual confidence and strong political will."
He added: "A military option will create a disaster in our
region. So before that disaster, everybody must be serious in
negotiations. We hope soon both sides will meet again but this
time there will be a complete result."
Qatari Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Mohamed al-Attiyah
said an attack "is not a solution."
"I believe that with our allies and friends in the West we
should open a serious dialogue with the Iranians to get out of
this dilemma. This is what we feel in our region," he said.
Turkey hosted talks between Western powers and Iran a year
ago that ended in stalemate because the participants could not
agree on an agenda.
Despite Obama's stated preference for a diplomatic solution,
he said from the White House on Sunday he would not take options
off the table to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
"We're going to do everything we can to prevent Iran from
getting a nuclear weapon and creating an arms race - a nuclear
arms race - in a volatile region," he said in the interview.
Any military strike on Iran, which might include an attack
on the oilfields of No. 1 exporter Saudi Arabia, could send oil
prices soaring, which could seriously harm the global economy.
Tehran has warned its response to any such strike would be
"painful," threatening to target Israel and U.S. bases in the
Gulf, and warning it may close the Strait of Hormuz used by one
third of the world's seaborne oil traffic.
The elite Revolutionary Guards began two days of military
maneuvers in southern Iran on Saturday in a show of force for
Iran's adversaries. On Sunday, the deputy of that unit said Iran
was ready to attack any country whose territory is used by
"enemies" to launch a military strike against it.
"Any spot used by the enemy for hostile operations against
Iran will be subjected to retaliatory aggression by our armed
forces," Hossein Salami told the semi-official Fars news agency.
The Gulf states that host U.S. military facilities are Qatar,
Bahrain and Kuwait.
Experts currently estimate the longest range of an Iranian
missile to be 1,500 miles (2,400 km), capable of reaching Israel
and Europe. Las week, Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon
said Iran had been working on a missile that could strike the
United States, with a range of 6,000 miles (10,000 km).
Asked about that risk, Obama said there was little sign of a
pending Iranian attack on U.S. soil. "We don't see any evidence
they have those intentions or capabilities right now," he said.
(Additional reporting by William Maclean in Munich, Michael
Holden in London and Aruna Viswanatha in Washington; Writing by
Laura MacInnis; Editing by Doina Chiacu)