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Bush Discusses Iran With Middle East Leaders

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2008 – President Bush told reporters today he has discussed Iran with leaders of the nations he is visiting during his trip to the Middle East.

During a media availability today in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the president said he spoke specifically about the most-recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, which said the country had discontinued a military program to build an atomic bomb.

Bush said Iranian leaders may have stopped their military program, but the enrichment of uranium remains a problem. “They were a threat, they are a threat, and they will be a threat if we don't work together to stop their enrichment,” Bush told reporters.

Bush also discussed Iranian harassment of U.S. Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz. The Jan. 6 incident in which five Iranian military speedboats buzzed three U.S. Navy ships transiting into the Persian Gulf was provocative and dangerous, the president said. The president said the actions of U.S. commanders and crews during the incident were exactly right.

“This is one of these moments where there's no time to be spending a lot time on the phone trying to figure out what to do,” Bush said. “These are highly trained professionals who I thought dealt with it in a very professional way.”

The incident ended with no shots being fired.

Whether the harassment of the warships was directed by the Iranian government, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Council or the Iranian navy is immaterial, Bush said. “It's not going to matter to me one way or the other if they hit our ships, and the Iranian government has got to understand that,” he said. “This is serious business.”

Bush brought up the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, that killed 19 sailors. “It's not going to matter who (in the Iranian government) made the decision. If they hit our ships, we will hold Iran responsible,” he said.

Bush stressed that the United States wants to solve any problem with Iran diplomatically, but said all options -- even military actions -- are on the table.

“But I'd like to solve this diplomatically and think we can,” he said.

He said he spoke to Middle East leaders about making sure consistent messages emanate from all parts of the world to the Iranians.

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