Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry
said on Thursday that as president he would support an Israeli air strike on Iran
if there is proof Tehran is moving closer to having a nuclear weapon.
"Obviously, we are going to support Israel.
And I've said that we will support Israel in every way that we can, whether it's diplomatic, whether it's economic sanctions, whether it's overt or covert operations, up to and including military action," the Texas governor said in an interview on CNN.
"We cannot afford to allow that madman in Iran
to get his hands on a nuclear weapon, period," Perry added.
A UN International Atomic Energy Agency report due next week is expected to unveil new details about the military side of Iran's nuclear program, while stopping short of explicitly saying Tehran is trying to build such weapons. Iran insists its program is for generating electricity.
Perry's campaign has been slipping after swiftly rising to the top of opinion polls when he entered the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination in August.
Meanwhile, the American administration tried to downplay the growing speculations
regarding a nearing attack on the Islamic Republic, saying it would rather exercise and exhaust "tough diplomacy" first.
"We have said many times that we do not seek military confrontation with Iran, but we will use any mean to put pressure on Iran to cooperate with IAEA," US state Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Thursday.
"We continue to believe that there is still time for diplomacy, and that a diplomatic outcome is possible, and we are working toward that goal," she added.
Yitzhak Benhorin contributed to the report