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Diplomacy Remains Main Avenue for Dealing With Iran, Bush Says

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2007 – Although U.S. troops will continue to defend themselves against any elements that threaten their security in Iraq, diplomacy remains the primary avenue for solving problems between the United States and Iran, President Bush said here today.

Bush spoke at the White House following a meeting with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Peter Pace, and Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who soon will take over as commander of coalition forces in Iraq.

“It just makes sense that if somebody is trying to harm our troops or stop us from achieving our goal or killing innocent citizens in Iraq that we will stop them,” Bush said. He discounted speculation that defending against third-nation threats in Iraq indicates a desire to expand the war outside Iraq’s borders.

“That's a presumption that simply is not accurate,” the president said. “We believe that we can solve our problems with Iran diplomatically and are working to do that.”

At the Pentagon today, Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman cited instances of Iranians in Iraq found to have been involved in activities against the Iraqi government and coalition forces.

"U.S. military forces certainly are going to take action against anybody that’s breaking the law with the Iraqi government, irrespective of their nationality,” he said. “We’ve made it clear in the past that Iran’s not being a good neighbor. We’ve had examples of specific instances where Iranians have been involved in activities that are not only meddlesome, but also destructive to the foundation and formation of the Iraqi government.”

Anyone involved in illegal activities that either threaten Iraqi civilians or the coalition forces or the Iraqi security forces will be “dealt with in accordance with the appropriate rules of force,” Whitman said.

Bush said that while U.S. forces will continue to protect themselves in Iraq, he believes the United States can solve its problems with Iran through diplomacy. He cited progress on the diplomatic front concerning Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

“We've convinced other nations to join us to send a clear message through the United Nations that that's unacceptable behavior,” Bush said.

Bush said Iran’s government must decide whether to continue to isolate Iran to the detriment of its people or to take steps that will reverse that isolation.

“Our struggle is not with the Iranian people. As a matter of fact, we want them to flourish,” he said. “We want their economy to be strong, and we want their mothers to be able to … raise their children in a hopeful society.”

(American Forces Press Service correspondent Army Sgt. Sara Wood contributed to this report.)

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