cautionary words for Maliki on Iran
By Matt Spetalnick
08/09/07 "WASHINGTON, Aug 9 (Reuters)
- U.S. President George W. Bush insisted on Thursday
that Iran is a destabilizing force in Iraq despite Tehran's
assertion to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that it is
helping secure his country.
Calling Iran a "very troubling nation" that must be
isolated, Bush warned during a White House news conference:
"When we catch you playing a nonconstructive role (in Iraq),
there will be a price to pay."
Bush spoke as Maliki, facing deepening political woes at
home and U.S. criticism for lack of progress in bridging
sectarian divisions, won pledges of support from Shi'ite
Iran during a visit to the neighboring country.
Playing down signs of warming ties between Baghdad and
Tehran, Bush -- struggling to rally U.S. public support for
the unpopular Iraq war -- voiced confidence that he and
Maliki see eye-to-eye on Iran as a threat.
"If the signal (from Maliki) is that Iran is constructive, I
will have to have a heart-to-heart with my friend, the prime
minister. Because I don't believe they are constructive,"
Bush said. "I don't think he, in his heart of heart(s),
thinks they're constructive either."
He suggested Maliki had been photographed smiling with his
Iranian hosts, including U.S. foe President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, only as a diplomatic nicety. "You don't want
the picture to be kind of, you know, duking it out," Bush
said, holding up his fists like a boxer.
It was the second time this week Bush has had to defend his
tough stance against Iran with cautionary words to a key
ally in the face of possible differences over Tehran's
He warned Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday during a
visit to the U.S. presidential retreat at Camp David to be
more suspicious of Iran after the Afghan leader had brushed
aside U.S. accusations that Tehran was arming the Taliban.
Iran, with a majority of Shi'ite Muslims like Iraq, has been
an important political player in Iraq since the 2003
Tehran denies Washington's accusations that it is supplying
weapons to militants to fuel violence, and instead blames
the U.S. military presence. Baghdad has urged both countries
to negotiate and not fight out their differences on Iraqi
IRAN PLEDGES SUPPORT TO MALIKI
During Maliki's visit, Iran's First Vice President Parviz
Davoudi told him Tehran "has always made a special effort to
help provide and strengthen security in Iraq," the official
IRNA news agency reported.
But Bush dismissed the idea that Iran had a positive role in
Iraq, where violence between majority Shi'ites and minority
Sunnis has seemed at times to verge on civil war. That has
fueled demands from Democrats who control the U.S. Congress
for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal, something Bush has
Little more than a month before the Sept. 15 deadline for a
crucial Iraq progress report, Bush urged lawmakers to move
quickly after their August recess to pass new war funding.
Bush said Maliki "knows that weaponry being smuggled in to
Iraq from Iran and placed into the hands of extremists --
over which the government has no control, all aimed at
killing innocent life -- is a destabilizing factor."
He said he had asked U.S. diplomats to hold recent meetings
with Iranian officials in Baghdad to "send a message that
there will be consequences" for arms smuggling into Iraq.
His message to the Iranian people was, "You can do better
than this current government." Iran this week said
Washington wants to topple its leaders with a "soft
Bush reiterated Western accusations that Iran's uranium
enrichment program is aimed at creating nuclear weapons and
called it "very dangerous for world stability." Tehran
insists its nuclear program is solely aimed at producing
The U.N. Security Council has imposed two rounds of
sanctions since December on Iran for failing to halt uranium
enrichment. A third sanctions resolution is being
considered. (Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky)
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