Bush warns of World War III if Iran goes nuclear
President Bush warned of dire consequences if Iran acquires nuclear weapons during a press conference on Wednesday, saying that he had told world leaders the country must be prevented from achieving nuclear capability "if you're interested in avoiding World War III."
"We've got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel," Bush said, responding to Russia's stated cautioning against military action targeting Tehran's suspected atomic program.
"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," said Bush.
Excerpts from transcript of press conference:
Q Mr. President, I'd like to follow on Mr. -- on President Putin's visit to Tehran -- not about the image of President Putin and President Ahmadinejad, but about the words that Vladimir Putin said there. He issued a stern warning against potential U.S. military action -- U.S. military action against --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Did he say U.S.?
Q Yeah. He said -- or at least the quote said that. And he also said, quote, he sees "no evidence" to suggest Iran wants to build a nuclear bomb. Were you disappointed with that message? And does that indicate possibly that the international pressure is not as great as you once thought against Iran abandoning its nuclear program?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I -- as I said, I look forward to -- if those are, in fact, his comments, I look forward to having him clarify those because when I visited with him, he understands that it's in the world's interest to make sure that Iran does not have the capacity to make a nuclear weapon. (Chuckles.)
And that's why on the first round at the U.N. he joined us and second round we joined together to send a message. I mean, if he wasn't concerned about it, Bret, then why did we have such good progress at the United Nations in round one and round two?
And so I'm -- I -- I will visit with him about it. I have not been briefed yet by Condi or Bob Gates about, you know, their visit with Vladimir Putin.
Q But you definitively believe Iran wants to build a nuclear bomb.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I think Tehran -- until they suspend and/or, you know, make it clear that they -- that -- that their -- that their statements are real, yeah, I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon. And I know it's in the world's interest to prevent them from doing so.
I believe that the Iranian -- if Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would be a dangerous threat to world peace. It would -- this is -- we got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I 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 knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. And I take this very -- I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously.
And we'll continue to work with all nations about the seriousness of this threat. Plus we'll continue working the financial measures that we're in the process of doing. In other words, I think -- the -- the -- the whole strategy is, is that, you know, at some point in time leaders or responsible folks inside of Iran may get tired of isolation and say this isn't worth it, and it me it's worth the effort to keep the pressure on this government.
And secondly, it's important for the Iranian people to know we harbor no resentment to them. We're disappointed in the Iranian government's actions, as should they be. Inflation's way too high; isolation is causing economic pain. This is a country that has got a much better future, people have got a much better -- should have better hope inside Iran than this current government is providing them.
So it's a -- it's -- look, it's a complex issue, no question about it, but my intent is to continue to rally the world, to send a focused signal to the Iranian government that we will continue to work to isolate you in the hopes that at some point in time somebody else shows up and says it's not worth the isolation.
The following video is from MSNBC's New Live, broadcast on October 17, 2007.