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Bush Calls on Iranians to Reject Government

"Now he wants to cut taxes for the biggest and wealthiest corporations," he said, referring to Bush's statement yesterday that he is considering a new plan to reduce corporate income tax rates.

Asked at today's news conference about reports from Tehran that Maliki, the visiting Iraqi prime minister, expressed appreciation for Iran's "positive and constructive" role, Bush said he wanted first to get a readout from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Maliki, making his second visit to Tehran since he took office in May 2006, paid tribute to the father of Iran's Islamic revolution, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and held talks with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other top officials, Iranian news agencies reported.

"Look, generally the way these things work is you try to be cordial to the person you're with, and so you don't want the picture to be kind of, you know, duking it out," Bush said.

"Now, if the signal is that Iran is constructive, I will have to have a heart to heart with my friend, the prime minister, because I don't believe they are constructive."

He said he believes that Maliki "in his heart of hearts" feels the same way. "Now, maybe he's hopeful, in trying to get them to be constructive, by laying out a positive picture. You're asking me to speculate."

Americans "ought to be very concerned about Iran," Bush said. "They're a destabilizing influence. They are a government that has -- its declared policy is very troubling, obviously, when they announce -- when Ahmadinejad has announced that the destruction of Israel is part of his foreign policy. That's something, obviously, we cannot live with. They have expressed their desire to be able to enrich uranium, which we believe is a step toward having a nuclear weapons program."

Bush added, "My message to the Iranian people is, 'You can do better than this current government. You don't have to be isolated. You don't have to be in a position where you can't realize your full economic potential.' And the United States of America will continue to work with our friends and allies in the Security Council and elsewhere to put you in a position to deny you your rightful place in the world -- not because of our intention; because of your government's intention."

Bush was also asked about the prospect that Musharraf, under mounting pressure from opponents, could declare a state of emergency in Pakistan, possibly undermining the battle against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in areas bordering Afghanistan. Bush said he has seen no evidence of such a declaration and expressed confidence that Musharraf is committed to fighting a common enemy.

"I have made it clear to him that I expect there to be full cooperation in sharing intelligence, and I believe we have good intelligence sharing," he said. "I have indicated to him that the American people would expect there to be swift action taken if there's actionable intelligence on high-value targets inside his country."

Bush said Americans must recognize that Pakistan "is a sovereign nation." As for Pakistan's domestic scene, his focus "is that he [Musharraf] have a free and fair election," Bush said. "And that's what we have been talking to him about. I'm hopeful they will."

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