HAY-ON-WYE Military action against Iran would be a last resort but the United States and its allies have not done enough to promote the alternative, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said on Wednesday.
John Bolton, who was a leading hawk in President George W. Bush's administration, told an audience at the Hay literary Festival that five years of "failed" negotiation with Iran over its nuclear program had left just two options for dealing with the issue -- regime change and use of force.
"The use of military force is an extremely unattractive option and only to be used as a last resort," he said, adding he would favor regime change.
Bolton said the elements for regime change were present in Iran -- the economy was in difficulties, young Iranians could see the possibility of a different life and there were ethnic tensions within the country.
But he added that the United Nations and its allies had not done enough to bring about the required change.
"I wish that we had had a much more vigorous policy five years ago," he said.
Bolton, in Hay to promote his book "Surrender is not an Option", said the insistence of Britain, France and Germany on trying to negotiate a solution with Iran and U.S. acquiescence in this policy had failed.
"Today Iran is five years closer to having a nuclear weapons capability," he said.
Western leaders fear Iran aims to build atomic weapons and the United Nations has hit Tehran with three rounds of sanctions since 2006, demanding it cease nuclear enrichment activities. Tehran has refused, saying its nuclear program is peaceful.
Bolton, who was also Under-Secretary of State under Colin Powell at the time of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, was jeered by protesters shouting "war criminal" as he left the stage.
(Reporting by Nigel Stephenson; Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia)