Bush warns Iran at start of Mideast mission
By DION NISSENBAUM
JERUSALEM | President Bush began a weeklong Middle East mission Wednesday by denouncing Iran as a threat to world peace and pledging to shore up flagging Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Three days after Iranian speedboats threatened a U.S. Navy convoy in the Strait of Hormuz, Bush joined Israeli leaders in issuing a stern warning to the Middle East nation.
“Iran was a threat, Iran is a threat, and Iran will be a threat if the international community does not come together and prevent that nation from the development of the know-how to build a nuclear weapon,” Bush said after a 2 1/2 -hour meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and key members of his coalition government.
Later, the administration backed up the warning by imposing new unilateral financial sanctions on four alleged members of the Iranian military’s Quds Force.
Bush warned Iran of “serious consequences” if it meddles again with U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf.
Iran accused the United States of fabricating video and audio released by the Pentagon showing Iranian boats confronting the U.S. warships.
The accusation by an official in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards was quoted by the state-run English-language channel Press TV.
On the opening day of his first official visit to Israel, Bush vowed to “nudge” Israelis and Palestinians into progress. He called on Olmert to remove scores of illegal Jewish outposts in the predominantly Palestinian West Bank and warned Palestinian leaders that they would have to gain control of militants in Gaza before a peace deal ever takes hold.
Illegal outposts “ought to go,” Bush said.
From the moment Bush arrived, Israeli leaders made sure that pushing along peace talks with the Palestinians didn’t overshadow their persistent concerns about Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has threatened Israel repeatedly.