In an interview with ABC News' "This Week," Panetta said the should all of the diplomatic attempts to get Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment and pursuit of what the West believes is ballistic nuclear capabilities, the United States will not hesitate to mount a military strike against it.
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"One of the things that we do at the Defense Department is plan. And we have – we have plans to be able to implement any contingency we have to in order to defend ourselves," Panetta said.
US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro had recently commented that the Washington was ready for a potential offensive against Iran.
Watch Panetta interview on ABC News
"It would be preferable to solve (Iran's nuclear issues) diplomatically and through the use of pressure, than to use military force," said Shapiro. "But that doesn't mean that option isn't fully available – not just available, it’s ready."
Panetta essentially agreed with Shapiro, but expressed hope that "the nuclear standoff with Iran could be solved peacefully."
Still, according to the secretary of defense, the United States' position on the possibility of a nuclear Iran was one and one only: "An Iran with nuclear weapons is not on the table."
Panetta said that "The fundamental premise is that neither the United States or the international community is going to allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.
"We will do everything we can to prevent them from developing a weapon," he said.
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