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4/26/04 -  BUSH ON IRAN AND NUCLEAR WEAPONS - 2004-04-26

President George W. Bush says that the world should deliver a strong message to Iran about nuclear weapons:

“The Iranians need to feel the pressure from the world that any nuclear weapons program will be uniformly condemned. It's essential that they hear that message. . . . It would be intolerable to peace and stability in the Middle East if they get a nuclear weapon, particularly since their stated objective is the destruction of Israel."

The International Atomic Energy Agency has criticized Iran for hiding key parts of its nuclear program that could be used to create nuclear weapons. The Iranian pattern of deception and delay continues. Mr. Bush says Britain, France, and Germany "have interceded on behalf of the civilized world to talk plainly" to Iran:

"One of my jobs is to make sure they speak as plainly as possible to the Iranians, and make it absolutely clear that the development of a nuclear weapon in Iran is intolerable...otherwise they will be dealt with, starting through the United Nations."

In Iran, real political power does not rest with President Mohammad Khatami, but with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. President Bush says that this political structure leads to difficulties:

"It's a tough, tough crowd to negotiate with. They've got the classic 'principal-to-non-principal' negotiating strategy available for them. They've got a fellow sitting up on top [Khamenei], probably the decision-maker on most matters, and yet the world goes to Khatami. So you're not really sure if the message is getting totally delivered or not."

President Bush says that stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction is part of the war on terror. "The war on terror is calling people to account, early, before it's too late," he says. "America is part of the battlefield, and we must deal with threats before they're too late."