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Bush says Iran wants nuclear weapons to destroy others

22 March 2008

Washington (dpa) – US President George W Bush charged that Iran has proclaimed its intention to destroy other countries with nuclear weapons, in comments that escalate the tone of the international debate and appear to have no base in past statements by Iran.

In an interview with Voice of America on Thursday, Bush urged the people of Iran to understand that their own government was responsible for Iran’s isolation because of its foreign policy decisions – "such as announcing they want to destroy countries with a nuclear weapon."

"It is irresponsible remarks like that which cause great credibility loss with the Iranian government, the actions of which are affecting the country," Bush said.

The interview with the US broadcaster was granted on Iran’s Nowruz holiday, or New Year, and Bush sent greetings to the people of Iran on the occasion.

Just late last year, US intelligence officials concluded that Iran had stopped its weapons programme.

In a Washington Post story on Friday, experts said there is no record of Iran declaring its intention to destroy countries with nuclear weapons.

"The Iranian government is on the record across the board as saying it does not want a nuclear weapon. There’s plenty of room for skepticism about this. But it’s troubling for the administration to indicate that Iran is explicitly embracing the program as a means of destroying another country," Suzanne Maloney, an Iran specialist at the State Department until last year, was quoted as saying. She now works at the Washington think tank, Brookings Institution.

Just days ago, Republican presidential nominee John McCain misstated Iran’s involvement with al-Qaeda while visiting Jordan, saying that it was training al-Qaeda terrorists. McCain apparently also made the remark in a radio interview last month.

His senate colleague Joseph Lieberman, who was travelling with him, corrected his mistake.

"It’s a little troubling that the president and the leading Republican candidate are both so wrong about Iran," Joseph Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, was quoted as saying.

The United Nations Security Council has passed a series of increasingly tough sanctions to force Iran to stop its uranium enrichment programme, which can produce weapons-grade material.

Iran has refused to stop enrichment or to accept the offer of supplies of enriched uranium from Russia. Iran denies any intentions of producing nuclear weapons but says it wants to build up its network of nuclear power plants to produce much-needed electricity.

Bush said he supports Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme.

Earlier this week, the US and Israel chastised Switzerland for sealing an huge gas deal with Iran estimated at 30 billion dollars.

[Copyright dpa 2008]