CLEVELAND, United States (AFP) – President George W. Bush said that he hoped to resolve the nuclear dispute with Iran by diplomatic means but warned Tehran he would use force if necessary to defend Israel.
“The threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally Israel. That’s a threat, a serious threat. It’s a threat to world peace,” the US president said after a speech defending the war in Iraq.
“I made it clear, and I’ll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally Israel,” said Bush, who was apparently referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s call for the destruction of Israel.
On the atomic dispute, Bush said he hoped “to solve this issue diplomatically” with a “united message” to Tehran from Washington, London, Paris, Berlin as well as Russia “hopefully” and China.
The message would be that “your desire to having a nuclear weapon is unacceptable,” he said. Tehran denies Washington’s charge that the Islamic Republic’s civilian nuclear program is cover for a quest for atomic weapons.
Bush also touched on Iran’s agreement to discuss Iraq with the United States, saying that “it’s very important, however, for the Iranians to understand that the discussion is limited to Iraq.
“We’re using this as an opportunity to make it clear about our concerns of interference within a democratic process that is evolving,” he said, saying the talks will not decide Iran’s relations with a sovereign Iraq.
“Ultimately, Iraq-Iranian relations will be negotiated between the Iraqi government and the Iranian government,” he said.
Asked why he believed Iran today was different from Iraq on the eve of the war three years ago, Bush suggested that the international community had already tried to deal with Saddam Hussein diplomatically — and failed.
“The Iranian issue is just beginning to play out. And my hope, of course, as I said earlier, is that we’re able to solve this issue diplomatically,” he said. “The issues are different. The issues are different stages of diplomacy.”
At the same time, he acknowledged that the failure to find the unconventional weapons at the core of the public case for war with Iraq had eroded US credibility at a difficult time.
“Obviously, the Iranian issue is a classic case where we’ve got to make sure that when we speak there’s credibility,” he said.