Bush Just About Ready to Take Iran to UN Security Council

U.S. President Bush, speaking at a joint press conference with PM Olmert Tuesday, outlined his strategy for dealing with Iran's world-threatening nuclear ambitions.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 10:30

In his introductory remarks at the press conference, Bush said the U.S. would protect Israel in the event of Iranian attack. "The United States and the international community have made our common position clear," Bush said. "We're determined that the Iranian regime must not gain nuclear weapons... Israel is a close friend and ally of the United States, and in the event of any attack on Israel, the United States will come to Israel's aid. The United States is strongly committed, and I'm strongly committed, to the security of Israel as a vibrant, Jewish state."

Though Iranian President Ahmedinajad has publicly denied the Holocaust but threatened Israel with a new one, Iranian officials have adamantly denied reports that the country is planning to legislate a law requiring Jews to wear yellow badges.

In answer to a question on how the U.S. would deal with Iran's nuclear program, President Bush said:
"Our primary objective is to solve this problem diplomatically. I've told the American people that I will, on all issues, we'll try diplomacy first and exhaust diplomacy. ...The most important thing in diplomacy is that there be a shared goal... in order to get people to come together around it. And now we have got a common goal throughout most of the world, and that is, Iran should not have a nuclear weapon. And that's important, and we are now working the diplomatic front around that goal.

"We have a variety of options, one of which, of course, is the United Nations Security Council, if the Iranians aren't willing to show progress toward that goal. We're working very closely with what's called the EU3. That's Germany, England and France. And I've been pleased, and Secretary of State Rice has been pleased about their willingness to stay tough on the goal, of achieving the goal. Sometimes when you've got a variety of negotiating parties, it's easier for one -- a non-transparent negotiator to pick off a weak link. And yet, they've been firm, and that's important for Israel to know. It's important for me to praise our partners for that strength of purpose.

"Obviously, there's other parties we have to work with, including Russia and China. In other words, you can't get anything out of the U.N. Security Council unless there's an agreement that the Iranians are not negotiating in good faith and aren't willing to go forward. And so we're spending a lot of time working with our Russian friends, in particular, to make it clear to them that Iran is showing no good faith.

"And one of the interesting issues that the Iranians have tossed out in this debate is that they believe they have the sovereign right for civilian nuclear power. And my position has been, fine, it's just you don't get to enrich the fuel necessary for the plant. And so we provided a -- I thought a very interesting opportunity for them to say, if you want civilian nuclear power, you can have your plant and the international consortium will provide the fuel for the plant. And we'll pick up the spent fuel from the plant. And this was a very realistic and reasonable approach, and it's been rejected by the Iranians.

"And so I say to our friends in our consortium, I'm not so sure these people really do want a solution and, therefore, let us make sure that we're willing to be working together in the U.N. Security Council. That's where we are. We're headed -- we're on the cusp of going to the Security Council. And I repeat to your question, obviously, we'd like to solve this issue peacefully and diplomatically. And the more the Iranians refuse to negotiate in good faith, the more countries are beginning to realize that we must continue to work together."

Prime Minister Olmert said, "We [Bush and Olmert] discussed the Iranian issue. The Iranian regime, which calls for Israel's destruction, openly denies the Holocaust, and views the United States as its enemy, makes every effort to implement its fundamentalist religious ideology and blatantly disregards the demands of the international community. The Iranian threat is not only a threat to Israel, it is a threat to the stability of the Middle East and the entire world. And it could mark the beginning of a dangerous and irresponsible arms race in the Middle East."

Olmert continued, "Mr. President, we appreciate your efforts to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions, including through the U.N. Security Council. They are of crucial importance. The international community cannot tolerate a situation where a regime with a radical ideology and a long tradition of irresponsible conduct becomes a nuclear weapons state. This is a moment of truth. It is still not too late to prevent it from happening."