Bush Taking Iran Threats 'Very Seriously'

The Associated Press
Sunday, May 7, 2006; 6:47 PM

WASHINGTON -- President Bush says he's paying close attention to threats made against Israel by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"I think that it's very important for us to take his words very seriously," he told the German newspaper Bild. "When people speak, it is important that we listen carefully to what they say and take them seriously.

A transcript was released Sunday of the president's comments made in interviews at week's end.

"For example, when al Qaida speaks, I take their words seriously," he told Bild. "When (Osama) bin Laden says we'll bring harm to the West, I take them seriously."

Bush said: "when Ahmadinejad speaks, we need to take it seriously, and when he says he wants to destroy Israel, the world needs to take that very seriously.

The Iranian leader has said Israel should be "wiped off the map" and has called the Holocaust a myth.

"It's a threat to an ally of the United States and Germany. But what he's also saying is, if he's willing to destroy one country, he'd be willing to destroy other countries."

Bush said his first choice is to solve with diplomacy the standoff with Iran over development of its nuclear program. Iranian leaders have said the country's nuclear program is purely for developing its energy resources, but the Bush administration has expressed doubts about that claim.

Talking about Iran with ARD German television, Bush said "an armed Iran will be a threat to peace. It will be a threat to peace in the Middle East, it will create a sense of blackmail, it will encourage other nations to feel like they need to have a nuclear weapon. And so it's essential that we succeed diplomatically."

© 2006 The Associated Press