Warning And Worry Nuclear-Armed Iran Risks World War, Bush Says
In a press conference Wednesday, President Bush urged the world to not allow Iran to get nuclear arms, which he say might lead to World War III.
President Bush warned Wednesday at a White House press conference that allowing Iran to get nuclear weapons "could lead to World War III."
"We got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel," Mr. Bush said at a White House news conference, referring to a remark by the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that Israel "will disappear soon." Mr. Bush said he had "told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."
Mr. Bush has said in the past that he would never "tolerate" a nuclear-armed Iran. But the comment on Wednesday was another sign that he did not accept a view stated last month by Gen. John P. Abizaid, who retired this year as the top American commander in the Middle East. The general said that "there are ways to live with a nuclear Iran."
Mr. Bush sought in the news conference to make clear that his pressure tactics, including economic sanctions, were aimed at persuading the Iranian people to find new leadership.
"The whole strategy is that, you know, at some point in time leaders or responsible folks inside of Iran may get tired of isolation and say, 'This isn't worth it,' and to me it's worth the effort to keep the pressure on this government," Mr. Bush said.
He added, "My intent is to continue to rally the world, to send a focused signal to the Iranian government that we will continue to work to isolate you in the hopes that at some point somebody else shows up and says it's not worth the isolation."
The president was responding to a question about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, who visited Iran this week and warned the United States against military action there. Before that, in Moscow, Mr. Putin said he saw "no evidence" that Iran was trying to acquire nuclear weapons.
Mr. Bush insisted that he and Mr. Putin see eye to eye on the Iranian nuclear threat.
"We don't agree on a lot of issues," Mr. Bush said. "We do agree on some: Iran is one; nuclear proliferation is another."
The president made his remarks on a day when Mr. Putin appeared in newspaper photographs standing side by side with Mr. Ahmadinejad. Mr. Bush dismissed any notion that the pictures reflected like-mindedness, saying, "Generally, leaders don't like to be photographed scowling at each other."
Mr. Bush has never quite been able to ride out his oft-quoted remark that he had looked into Mr. Putin's eyes and gotten "a sense of his soul." On Wednesday, he defended his brand of personal diplomacy, even as he expressed a wariness about Mr. Putin's commitment to democracy.
Under Russia's Constitution, Mr. Putin is supposed to step down next year, but he has indicated that he may try to keep his power by becoming prime minister. At a recent meeting in Australia, Mr. Bush said, he asked Mr. Putin about his plans.
"I tried to, you know, get it out of him -- who's going to be his successor, what he intends to do," Mr. Bush said. "And he was wily. He wouldn't tip his hand."