Uncertainty prevails in US over Iran’s nuclear programme; Philippines to boost its air power with US help
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  • (December 19-25, 2011)

    According to reports, the Pentagon has sought to play down remarks by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta who has suggested Iran's nuclear program could be on a faster track than previously suspected. In an interview with CBS News, Panetta said Iran could have a nuclear weapon in a year or possibly sooner and that the timeline might be different if Tehran had a secret "hidden" site. But Pentagon spokesmen said Panetta was speaking "hypothetically" and that he was not suggesting there was new intelligence pointing to secret facilities. Significantly, in the interview, Panetta also refused to rule out military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons but unlike previous statements he made no mention of the potential risks associated with a strike that he has warned of repeatedly. United States officials however, have maintained that the country's intelligence agencies had not changed their view on the state of Iran's program. 1

    In another development, reports noted that Philippines is in the process of acquiring F-16 fighter jets from the United States as part of stepped up efforts to defend the archipelago, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said. Chances were "high" that Manila would acquire the fighter planes, but the foreign secretary did not reveal further details. Filipino officials raised the potential jet deal during a visit last month by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who pledged a wide-ranging commitment to Philippines from military to economic cooperation, and said Washington must address "new challenges" in the region. 2