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Bush Takes Strong Stand Against Iran Nuclear Plans
By Scott Lindlaw
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, June 18, 2003; 2:55 PM
President Bush said Wednesday that he and other world leaders will not tolerate nuclear weapons in Iran and he urged Tehran to treat protesters seeking the ouster of the Islamic government with "the utmost of respect."
Iran is thought to be developing nuclear weapons, though the government denies it.
"The international community must come together to make it very clear to Iran that we will not tolerate construction of a nuclear weapon," Bush told reporters at the end of a meeting in the White House Cabinet Room. "Iran would be dangerous if it had a nuclear weapon," he said.
Bush said he had brought the matter of nuclear weapons up with other leaders at the G-8 meeting of industrial powers, plus Russia, earlier this month.
"There was near-universal agreement that we all must work together to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon," he said.
Iran also has an advanced missile program and maintains ties to terrorist groups, possibly including al-Qaida, the administration has asserted, and is run by conservative mullas who are deeply hostile toward the United States.
Bush labeled Iraq a threat to U.S. national security before invoking his revised U.S. defense posture which called for pre-emptive attack in such a case.
Bush did not say what he would do if international inspectors found Iran in violation of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The Bush administration is banking on diplomatic pressure to encourage Iran to rethink its nuclear program. It is confident that the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, meeting this week, will find Iran to be in violation.
Such a step that could put the issue before the U.N. Security Council.
Tehran and other cities saw violent clashes last week as pro-government forces put down student-led protests demanding an end to clerical rule. Those protests have largely died down in the past few days.
Bush paid tribute to "those courageous souls who speak out for freedom in Iran."
"They need to know America stands squarely by their side, and I would urge the Iran government to treat them with the utmost of respect," he said.
The Iranian government has accused Washington of interfering in its internal affairs - and some opponents of the regime also say that public criticism by American leaders does not help their cause.
Reformist lawmaker Fatemeh Haqiqatjou said she and 200 other reformists signed a statement Tuesday against the U.S. comments. "Iranians want change and that change has to be brought by Iranians themselves, not foreigners," she said. "America's involvement only undermines the slow pace of reforms in Iran."
© 2003 The Associated Press