Bush Assures Israel Iran Seen As Threat
Tuesday, November 14, 2006; 8:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- Visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will return to his country with reassurances from the Bush administration that it is not backing down from its view that Iran and its nuclear program are a world threat.
With Olmert at his side following a White House meeting Monday, Bush told reporters that a nuclear-armed Iran not only would threaten Israel but loom as an "incredibly destabilizing" threat to the region and the world.
"I recognize the threat to world peace that the Iranians pose, as does the prime minister," Bush said.
Israel is worried that political fallout from last week's Republican election defeat and rising calls for U.S. engagement with Iran may soften Bush's resolve against a country whose president has said the Jewish state should be wiped from the map.
The president's remarks come as his administration is considering changing its policy in Iraq, following last week's Democratic election triumph that will give them control of Congress next year.
Tuesday morning, Bush spoke by telephone with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak "as part of their continuing consultations on issues of importance in the region," said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the National Security Council. He said during the 10-minute conversation the two men discussed Lebanon and Sudan, as well as Olmert's visit and the Palestinian political situation.
Before meeting with Olmert, Bush spent an hour with a bipartisan commission that will recommend new U.S. approaches for ending the widely unpopular war in Iraq. Among the options the panel has been considering is engaging Iran and Syria _ longtime adversaries of the U.S. _ to help bring peace in Iraq.
But in his remarks to reporters, Bush did not mention such an approach to Iran. Instead, he emphasized his administration's long-running effort to press Iran to abandon its nuclear program, which the U.S. and Israel say is aimed at developing weapons but Tehran says is designed to produce an energy source.
"It is very important for the world to unite with one common voice, to say to the Iranians that if you choose to continue forward, you'll be isolated, and one source of isolation would be economic isolation," Bush said.
He said that "rational people" in Iran should know that isolation was not in their interest.
Bush reminded Iran "we are willing to come to the table with the European Union, as well as Russia and China to discuss a way forward" in relations.
He repeated conditions he set weeks ago that first, Iran must agree to verifiably suspend its uranium enrichment activities.