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Bush: Iran report a ‘warning signal’ – Freedom is slavery, war is peace, love is hate…

Bush calls on Iran to ‘come clean’

Bush: Iran report a ‘warning signal’
President says a new intelligence report on Iran provides ‘a warning signal’
Dec. 4, 2007

WASHINGTON – President Bush said Tuesday that the international community should continue to pressure Iran on its nuclear programs, saying Tehran remains dangerous despite a new intelligence report finding it halted its development of a nuclear bomb.

“I view this report as a warning signal that they had the program, they halted the program,” Bush said. “The reason why it’s a warning signal is they could restart it.”

Bush spoke one day after a new national intelligence estimate found that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003, largely because of international scrutiny and pressure.

That finding is in stark contrast to the comparable intelligence estimate of just two years ago, when U.S. intelligence agencies believed Tehran was determined to develop a nuclear weapons capability and was continuing its weapons development program.

It is also stood in marked contrast to Bush’s rhetoric on Iran. At his last news conference on Oct. 17, for instance, he said that people “interested in avoiding World War III” should be working to prevent Iran from having the knowledge needed to make a nuclear weapon.

Bush said Tuesday that he only learned of the new intelligence assessment last week. But he portrayed it as valuable ammunition against Tehran, not as a reason to lessen diplomatic pressure.

‘Nothing’s changed’
“To me, the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) provides an opportunity for us to rally the international community — to continue to rally the community — to pressure the Iranian regime to suspend its program,” the president said. “What’s to say they couldn’t start another covert nuclear weapons program.”

He also asserted that the report means “nothing’s changed,” focusing on the previous existence of a weapons program and not addressing the discrepancy between his rhetoric and the disclosure that weapons program has been frozen for four years.

Bush said he is not troubled about his standing, about perhaps facing a credibility gap with the American people. “No, I’m feeling pretty spirited — pretty good about life,” Bush said.

“I have said Iran is dangerous, and the NIE doesn’t do anything to change my opinion about the danger Iran poses to the world.”

In Kabul, Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates reinforced the U.S. position that the new U.S. intelligence assessment shows that Tehran remains a possible threat. He said it shows that Iran has had a nuclear weapons program and that as long as the country continues with its uranium enrichment activities, Iran could always renew its weapons program.

The U.S. intelligence assessment “validated the administration’s strategy of bringing diplomatic and economic efforts to bear on Iran,” Gates said Tuesday, speaking at a news conference with Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai.

First in nearly 7 weeks
Bush called the news conference, his first in nearly seven weeks, to intensify pressure on lawmakers amid disputes over spending and the Iraq war. Taking advantage of his veto power and the largest bully pulpit in town, Bush regularly scolds Congress as a way to stay relevant and frame the debate as his presidency winds down.

Democrats counter that Bush is more interested in making statements than genuinely trying to negotiate some common ground with them.

Specifically, Bush again on Tuesday challenged Congress to send him overdue spending bills; to approve his latest war funding bill without conditions; to pass a temporary to fix to the alternative minimum tax so millions of taxpayers don’t get hit with tax increases; and to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

“Congress still has a lot to do,” Bush said. “It doesn’t have very much time to do it.”

On another matter, Bush was asked about a rape victim in Saudi Arabia who was sentenced to prison and 200 lashes for being alone with a man not related to her — a violation of the kingdom’s strict segregation of the sexes. Saudi Arabia has faced enormous international criticism about the sentencing.

“My first thoughts were these,” Bush said. “What happens if this happens to my daughter? How would I react? And I would have been — I’d of been very emotional, of course. I’d have been angry at those who committed the crime. And I’d be angry at a state that didn’t support the victim.”

Bush, however, said he has not made his views known directly to Saudi King Abdullah, an ally. But he added: “He knows our position loud and clear.”

The president said the U.S. economy is strong, though he acknowledged that the housing crisis has become a “headwind.” He said administration officials are working on the issue, but he is wary of bailing out lenders. “We shouldn’t say, ‘OK, you made a lousy loan so we’re going to go ahead and subsidize you.’ ”

Asked about the 2008 election, Bush steered himself back out of commenting on politics. “I practiced some punditry in the past — I’m not going to any further.”

On Iran, Bush said the report’s finding would not prompt him to take a U.S. military option against Tehran off the table.

“The best diplomacy — effective diplomacy — is one in which all options are on the table,” he said.

The president also said that the world would agree with his message that Iran shouldn’t be let off the hook yet.

In fact, Europeans said the new information strengthens their argument for negotiations with Tehran, but they also said that sanctions are still an option to compel Iran to be fully transparent about its nuclear program.

European officials insisted that the international community should not walk away from years of talks with an often defiant Tehran that is openly enriching uranium for uncertain ends. The report said Iran could still build a nuclear bomb by 2010-2015.

Bush calls on Iran to ‘come clean’
December 5, 2007

President Bush, trying to keep pressure on Iran, called on Tehran Wednesday to “come clean” about the scope of its nuclear activities or else face diplomatic isolation.

Two days after a new intelligence report said that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program four years ago, Bush demanded that Tehran detail its previous program to develop nuclear weapons “which the Iranian regime has yet to acknowledge.”

“The Iranians have a strategic choice to make,” he said. “They can come clean with the international community about the scope of their nuclear activities, and fully accept the long-standing offer to suspend their enrichment program and come to the table and negotiate, or they can continue on a path of isolation.”

The administration is worried that the new National Intelligence Estimate — representing a consensus of all U.S. spy agencies — weakens its leverage over Iran and its ability to build global pressure on Tehran to stop its uranium enrichment program.

Bush, arriving here on a campaign fundraising trip, said he had consulted with members of his national security team, who gave him a report about what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley have learned in talks during the past several days with their counterparts in Britain, Germany, France and Russia.

“These countries understand that the Iranian nuclear issue is a problem, and continues to be a problem and must be addressed,” Bush said.

Backing the U.S. intelligence community, Bush said he appreciated its work in helping people to understand past and present activities in Iran and helping the administration develop a sound policy.

“It is clear from the latest NIE that the Iranian government has more to explain about its nuclear intentions and past actions,” Bush said.

His statement Wednesday came a day after a news conference called in part to react to the new information on Iran’s nuclear activities. Bush’s public remarks, coupled with frenzied contacts with world leaders by Bush, Rice and Hadley, show a White House trying to keep the world on board with its hard line against Tehran — an uphill effort now, according to most analysts.

Also Wednesday, the White House said the United States will continue “actively pushing” for a third, tougher round of United Nations sanctions against Iran. Deputy press secretary Tony Fratto said Iran continues to hide information, remains in violation of two U.N. Security Council resolutions, tests ballistic missiles and is enriching uranium.

“Anyone who thinks that the threat from Iran has receded or diminished is naive and is not paying attention to the facts,” Fratto told reporters flying aboard Air Force One with Bush en route to Nebraska.

Fratto disputed Iran’s claim that the intelligence estimate was a vindication for Tehran. “I think that’s absolutely absurd, and Iran should take no comfort or vindication from the NIE,” he said.

He rejected calls, since the new report, for the administration to enter into unconditional talks with Iran, something the White House has said it would only do once Tehran stops enriching uranium.

Tehran says its nuclear program is only for civilian energy purposes. It says it is allowed to enrich uranium for that reason.

Rice, traveling in Africa Wednesday, questioned the openness of the Iranian government after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the new U.S. intelligence review amounted to “a final shot” against Tehran’s critics.

Rice declined to respond to Ahmadinejad’s remark, but told reporters in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa that the public release of the NIE showed the administration was committed to transparent democracy, while Iran was not.

“I am not going to comment on that comment except to say that what the National Intelligence Estimate shows, and the transparency with which the administration released it, is what it means to live in a democracy and I hope one day that the people of Iran will live in a democracy too,” she said.

Rice said that the latest U.S. intelligence estimate did not mean that Washington no longer considered Tehran a threat and urged the international community not to back down at the U.N. Security Council on pressuring Iran to halt its activities that could produce the ingredients for an atomic weapon.

“It is the very strong view of the administration that the Iranian regime remains a problematic and dangerous regime and that the international community must continue to unite around the Security Council resolutions that have passed,” she said.

“Iran needs to stop enrichment and reprocessing activities because those enriching and reprocessing activities permit, if they are perfected, a state to acquire fissile material for a nuclear weapon,” Rice said.