Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Bush: US would defend Israel against Iran

Steve Holland, Reuters:
U.S. President George W. Bush vowed on Wednesday the United States will rise to Israel's defense if needed against Iran and denounced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for "menacing talk" against Israel.

In a Reuters interview aboard Air Force One en route to Nashville, Bush also said he saw a "very good chance" that the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency will refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

"I am concerned about a person that, one, tries to rewrite the history of the Holocaust, and two, has made it clear that his intentions are to destroy Israel," Bush said.

"Israel is a solid ally of the United States, we will rise to Israel's defense if need be. So this kind of menacing talk is disturbing. It's not only disturbing to the United States, it's disturbing for other countries in the world as well," he added.

Asked if he meant the United States would rise to Israel's defense militarily, Bush said: "You bet, we'll defend Israel." READ MORE

Ahmadinejad has prompted international condemnation for anti-Israel rhetoric in recent weeks, including saying it should be wiped off the map, and also calling into question the Holocaust.

Iran is engaged in a stand-off over its nuclear program. Tehran insists its program is aimed at developing nuclear power and the United States and other international powers charge it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Asked if he thought the IAEA will refer Iran to the Security Council, Bush said: "The IAEA must take a look at the facts, and listen carefully to the arguments, and there's a very good chance it will."

The council's five permanent members, including a reluctant Russia and China, this week agreed to ask the U.N. nuclear watchdog to report Iran to New York immediately.

Bush also said he had spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin about Iran and would not say how Putin feels about a Security Council referral. "He understands the threat, and we share the same goal," he said.

The IAEA's governing board will decide at an emergency meeting in Vienna on Thursday whether to report Iran to the Security Council.