KUWAIT CITY – Iran is far from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and despite U.S. fears about its atomic intentions, an American military strike against the Islamic Republic is unlikely, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday.
Tehran rejects claims by the United States and some European Union countries that its nuclear program is aimed at secretly producing weapons, insisting it is for peaceful purposes only.
"I think Iran is a long way from having anything that could be anything like a nuclear weapon," said Powell, who was invited by the National Bank of Kuwait to speak on economic opportunity and crisis in the Middle East.
A recent report by the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog found Iran has been generally truthful in the information it has provided the agency about aspects of its past nuclear activities.
But the International Atomic Energy Agency said it could not rule out that Iran had a secret weapons program because of restrictions Tehran placed on its inspectors two years ago.
Asked if he sees a U.S. war on Iran coming, the retired U.S. general said although no American official will say the option was "off the table," he did not see prospects of a military conflict.
There is no base of support among Americans for such an action, Powell said, adding that the U.S. military already has enough on its hands in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Powell was the secretary of state under President Bush from 2001 to 2005. In September 2004, Powell said Iran's nuclear program was a growing threat and he called for international sanctions.