(Updates with Santorum comments in eighth paragraph.)
Jan. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said he would use air strikes against Iran unless the country dismantled its nuclear program or allowed inspectors to verify that the work isn’t aimed at making a weapon.
“I would be saying to the Iranis, you either open up those facilities, you begin to dismantle them and make them available to inspectors, or we will degrade those facilities through air strikes,” Santorum said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program today. “Iran will not get a nuclear weapon under my watch.”
Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, has surged in polls of Republicans days before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. He’s now in third place, according to a Des Moines Register poll released late yesterday.
The Iowa poll showed Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, with the support of 24 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers. Ron Paul, a Texas congressman, had the backing of 22 percent. Santorum won 15 percent after a surge in the final two days of sampling.
Iran is facing new Western efforts to halt its suspected nuclear weapons program, including U.S. sanctions signed into law yesterday by President Barack Obama and a possible European Union ban on imports of oil from Iran, the world’s third-largest oil exporter. Iran denies seeking to develop atomic weapons.
Santorum expressed similar views about Iran in a Dec. 15 Republican presidential debate in Sioux City, Iowa, saying “we need to make sure that they do not have a nuclear weapon.”
“We should be planning a strike against their facilities and say, if you do not open up those facilities and not close them down, we will close them down for you,” he said.
“You can’t get out and say this is what I’m for and then do nothing,” Santorum said. “You become a paper tiger and people don’t respect our country.”
--With assistance from Ayesha Daya in Dubai. Editors: James Tyson, Gail DeGeorge
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