Bush says US would defend Israel if Iran attacks
1 day ago
JERUSALEM (AFP) — US President George W. Bush said Washington would defend its close ally Israel in the event of an Iranian attack, in remarks broadcast on Israeli army radio on Sunday.
"Whether there's an imminent attack coming, I don't think so," Bush said in excerpts of an interview with an Israeli television station to be aired in its entirety later in the day.
"If Iran did strike Israel... We will defend our ally, no ands, ifs or buts," he said.
Bush's statements came just days before he arrives in the region for his first visit since taking office in January 2001 and the first trip by a sitting US president since December 1998.
The visit is aimed at boosting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks relaunched at a US conference in late November and at rallying regional opposition to Iran's controversial nuclear programme.
Israel considers the Islamic republic its main regional threat in the wake of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's repeated statements for it to be wiped off the map.
Widely considered to be the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear power, Israel along with the US suspects that Tehran's nuclear programme is a cover for developing atomic weapons, a charge Iran has denied.
"If I were an Israeli, I would take the words of the Iranian president seriously, and as president of the United States I take them seriously," Bush said.
International support for further sanctions against Iran has been waning since a US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) in early December said that the Islamic republic had halted a nuclear weapons programme in 2003.
On Sunday Iran slammed Bush's planned trip as an interference in relations between regional states.
"We see such a trip as interference in the relations of the countries in the region and propaganda," foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters in Tehran.