Bush will not rule out force in fresh Iran warning

US PRESIDENT George W Bush, in a fresh warning to Tehran, said he favours a peaceful resolution to the nuclear standoff with Iran but has not ruled out military force.

Bush spoke at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but his words were aimed at Iran.

He warned Iran against dragging out the dispute to run the clock out on his presidency.

“My first choice is to solve this diplomatically,” said Bush, who is rallying European allies to back tougher sanctions against Iran. But he also said: “All options are on the table,” a phrase he has repeatedly used in reference to a possible military strike against Iran, even as a last resort.

Iran, which says it is enriching uranium for peaceful purposes, had a message for Bush yesterday too.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Bush’s presidency was over and the president has failed in his goals to attack Iran and stop its nuclear programme.

Addressing thousands of people in central Iran, Ahmadinejad described Bush as “wicked” and said Bush was targeting Iran after dispatching the US military into Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I tell him [Bush]... your era has come to an end,” Ahmadinejad said. “With the grace of God, you won’t be able to harm even one centimetre of the sacred land of Iran.”

Merkel, who appeared with Bush at the German government’s main guesthouse said if Iran does not agree to suspend its enrichment programme, additional sanctions would be needed.

Meanwhile, Bush said yesterday that his aggressive stance over Iraq made the world believe he was a “guy really anxious for war” and that he should have used a “different tone, a different rhetoric”.

He said he now wanted to leave his successor a legacy of international diplomacy for tackling Iran.

In an exclusive interview with The Times, Mr Bush expressed regret at the bitter divisions over the war and said he wanted to “leave behind a series of structures that makes it easier for the next president”.

The president said that his use of phrases such as “bring them on” and “dead or alive”, “indicated to people that I was, you know, not a man of peace”.

Facing his final six months in office, he said he was concerned that Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama might open cracks in the West’s united front towards Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

He said that when his successor arrived and assessed “what will work or what won’t work in dealing with Iran”, he would keep the current policy.

Mr Bush said the world ought to work together and “keep focused”.


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