- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A
nuclear-armed Iran would pose an intolerable threat to peace in the Middle
East and a mortal danger to Israel, President George W. Bush said on Wednesday,
adding that any such threat would be "dealt with" by the United
States and its allies.
- In strongly worded remarks before an audience of newspaper
editors and publishers, the Republican president pressed the secretive
leadership of the Islamic republic to heed U.S. and European demands not
to pursue a nuclear weapons program.
- "It would be intolerable to peace and stability
in the Middle East if they get a nuclear weapon, particularly since their
stated objective is the destruction of Israel," Bush said in answer
to a question about international cooperation against militant attacks.
- "The development of a nuclear weapon in Iran is
intolerable. And a program is intolerable. Otherwise they will be dealt
with, starting through the United Nations."
- The United States accuses Iran of pursuing a nuclear
weapons program, but Tehran says its nuclear ambitions are confined to
generating electricity. Washington hard-liners have been pressing for U.N.
sanctions against the Islamic state.
- The president's remarks come at a time of turmoil for
U.S. policy in the Middle East, including Iran's neighbor Iraq, which the
United States invaded last year after a stormy U.N. Security Council debate
over whether the Arab nation possessed weapons of mass destruction.
- No such weapons have been found and deteriorating conditions
marked by a heightened insurgency have been followed by troop withdrawal
announcements from Spain, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.
- Poland, a key U.S. ally in Iraq, has also placed its
position under review, while Thailand has said it will withdraw medical
and engineering troops if they are attacked. But the White House points
to continued support from nations like Britain, Japan, Italy and Portugal
as evidence the coalition remains strong.
- Meanwhile, Washington is facing a backlash from the Arab
world over Bush's decision to endorse Israeli plans to retain Jewish settlements
on West Bank land captured during the 1967 Middle East war.
- On Wednesday, Bush rejected international criticism and
said world leaders should be grateful for what he described as the "chance
to begin the construction of a peaceful Palestinian state."