Bush warns nuclear-armed Iran could mean ‘World War III’


Washington : US President George W. Bush has warned that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to a third world war, trying to persuade countries to step up pressure on the Islamic state that has called for the destruction of Israel.

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Bush Wednesday said Iran poses a threat to peace and referred to comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has previously said Israel should be eliminated.

“We’ve got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel,” Bush said. “So I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.”

Bush’s comments followed a visit to Tehran by Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday, where he met Ahmadinejad, pledged closer ties between the two countries and stated there was no evidence to support western accusations that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Bush said he was looking forward to hearing from Putin about his talks with Ahmadinejad and wanted the Russian leader to “clarify” his remarks.

“The thing I’m interested in is whether or not he continues to harbour the same concerns that I do,” Bush said, noting Putin has backed two UN Security Council resolutions imposing limited sanctions on Iran.

The five permanent members of the Security Council – Britain, China, France, Russia and the US – plus Germany have been negotiating a third resolution seeking further sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. Talks scheduled to take place in Berlin on Wednesday were postponed when China pulled out.

Russia has been reluctant to come down too hard on Iran over concerns of undermining the diplomatic effort aimed at keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Iran maintains that the uranium enrichment programme is solely for meeting energy needs.

Bush said he was committed to resolving the dispute with Iran peacefully but speculation has swirled that he may order air strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Putin has said there should be no military action against Iran and urged countries in the Caspian region to not allow the use of their soil to support any American strike on Iran.

While in Iran, Putin outlined plans to broaden economic relations and said Russia will continue helping Iran build a civilian nuclear reactor at Bushehr.

Russia has delayed work on the Bushehr plant, but Putin said the slowdown was because of financial reasons and not linked to the effort to curtail Iran’s nuclear activities.

Ahmadinejad argues that Iran has a right to develop its own nuclear energy programme and has vowed not to bow to international pressure. He has warned that additional sanctions will prompt his government to cease any cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog known as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).