BAGHDAD – The commander of U.S. military forces in the Middle East does not believe current tensions with Iran will lead to war and urges for greater emphasis on dialogue and diplomacy.
"This constant drum beat of conflict is what strikes me which is not helpful and not useful," Adm. William Fallon said in an interview with Al-Jazeera television, which made a partial transcript available Sunday.
Fallon, the head of U.S. Central Command, wraps up a seven-nation tour of the region on Tuesday that included stops in Persian Gulf countries, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Many of the talks with military and political leaders were dominated by worries about expanding Iranian influence and U.S. accusations that Iran is supplying arms and training to Shiite militiamen in Iraq.
"I expect that there will be no war and that is what we ought to be working for," said Fallon during the Friday interview at Al-Jazeera's headquarters in Qatar. "We should find ways through which we can bring countries to work together for the benefit of all .... It is not a good idea to be in a state of war. We ought to try and to do our utmost to create different conditions."
Al-Jazeera was expected to broadcast the complete interview later this week.
Fallon — who leads U.S. forces in Central Asia, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa — was in Iraq on Sunday for a second day of meetings.
At the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Saturday that the world body plans to open a new office in Baghdad to encourage cooperation between Iraq and its neighbors, calling Iraq's stability "a common concern." The U.N. greatly scaled back its presence in Iraq since a 2003 bombing at its Baghdad headquarters that killed 22 people.