Bush Prods International Community on Iran

July 7, 2008 - 7:23 PM

(CNSNews.com) - President Bush had a "couple of words" to say about Iran Wednesday morning, but he also appeared to be addressing China and Russia.

Shortly after his plane touched down in Nebraska, Bush stressed that the international community must continue to address the problem posed by Iran."

Bush said he was briefed Wednesday morning on discussions that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley have had over the past few days with their counterparts in the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Russia.

"These countries understand that the Iranian nuclear issue is a problem -- and continues to be a problem -- that must be addressed by the international community. A number of them have said so publicly, and I appreciate their comments," Bush said.

Bush said the National Intelligence Estimate released on Monday has helped the world better understand what Iran is doing and what it has been doing.

"It is clear from the latest NIE that the Iranian government has more to explain about its nuclear intentions and past actions," he said. Bush noted that the Iranian regime has never acknowledged the covert nuclear program it pursued into 2003.

The NIE also said Iran continues its uranium enrichment efforts, a key step in producing a nuclear weapon.

According to press reports, both Russia and China are having second thoughts about imposing new sanctions on Iran.

Both countries -- permanent members of the United Nations Security Council -- reluctantly went along with two earlier rounds of sanctions.

"We will assess the situation regarding a new U.N. Security Council resolution taking into account all these facts, including the U.S. confirmation that it has no information about the existence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

China expressed doubts about additional sanctions on Tuesday.

"The Iranians have a strategic choice to make," Bush said in Nebraska. "They can come clean with the international community about the scope of their nuclear activities, and fully accept the longstanding offer to suspend their enrichment program and come to the table to negotiate - or they continue on a path of isolation, that is not in the best interests of the Iranian people."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday hailed the new U.S. intelligence assessment as a "victory for Iran" and a "final blow" for Iran's enemies.

"This is a declaration of victory for the Iranian nation against the world powers over the nuclear issue," Ahmadinejad told a rally in western Iran. He also said Iran would not abandon its "peaceful" nuclear energy program.

The U.S. intelligence assessment, which said Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, put an end to the "dreams of ill-wishers, and the truthfulness of the Iranian nation was once again proved by the ill-wishers themselves."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in Ethiopia on Wednesday, refused to respond to Ahmadinejad's "victory" remarks, but she did say the public release of the NIE shows the "transparency" of U.S. democracy.

"I hope one day that the people of Iran will be able to live in a democracy, too," she said.

President Bush told a press conference on Tuesday that Iran is still dangerous and would be dangerous in the future if it managed to obtain nuclear weapons or help rogue nations or terrorists do so.

In Israel, officials disputed the U.S. intelligence assessment. Israeli experts warned that the report would have an adverse effect on U.S. efforts to maintain a united front against Iran. (See earlier story)

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