'I'm not going to comment,' says resolute Bush on Syria attack

US President says Ahmadinejad threats must be taken seriously; expresses hope for peaceful resolution to Iranian threat.

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
September 20, 2007 17:51
2 minute read.
'I'm not going to comment,' says resolute Bush on Syria attack

bush arms spread 224.88. (photo credit: AP)

 
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US President George W. Bush emphatically refused to address reports of an Israeli attack on Syria despite persistent questioning during a White House press conference Thursday. "Saying I'm not going to comment on the matter means I'm not going to comment on the matter," Bush said after David Gregory of NBC News tried various formulations to get him to discuss the controversial event. Gregory began by noting Binyamin Netanyahu's recent comments on the subject, which contrast with the unusually tight-lipped stance taken by Israeli and American officials in connection to the incident. Bush also didn't answer a question on whether he believed the North Koreans are aiding Syria with a nuclear program. He did say of the North Koreans and the talks aimed at ending the country's nuclear program as well as its international isolation, "We expect them to stop that proliferation, if they want the six-party talks to be successful." He also said that ending proliferation was as important in the eyes of the United States as getting rid of a nuclear weapons program. Regarding a potential Iranian nuclear weapons program, Bush made it clear that "the free world is not going to tolerate the development of knowhow in how to build a weapon, or at least gain the ability to make a weapon." The reason for that, he said, is because of the importance of taking the threats made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seriously. "He's a person that is, you know - constantly talks about the use of force ... on Israel, for example, and Israel is our very firm and strong ally." He also lent his support to the New York police who determined Ahmadinejad would not be allowed to visit the site where the Twin Towers once stood. "I can understand why they would not want somebody who is running a country who is a state sponsor of terror down there at the site," he said. Bush began his comments on Iran, made in response to a question if whether the heating up of rhetoric was likely to lead to war between the two countries, by saying, "I'm hopeful that we can convince the Iranian regime to give up any ambitions it has in developing a weapons program, and do so peacefully. "That ought to be the objective of any diplomacy. And to this end, we are working with allies and friends to send a consistent message to the Iranians that there is a better way forward for them than isolation." During the press conference, Bush also took aim at the possibility of Americans choosing isolation as well. "You'll find isolationists are those who say it's not our business what happens overseas; it doesn't matter if there's a free society in the heart of the Middle East, as far as our long-term security and peace. I just strongly reject that," he said towards the end of the questioning. "I think it does matter a lot that the United States is working with other nations to promote liberty and freedom. I believe liberty is a change agent. Liberty can help hostile parts of the world become peaceful parts of the world." He said the best way to change the conditions that led to September 11 was "to be active with foreign policy." He concluded, "Isolationists would say it's not worth it, doesn't matter to the United States of America. Well, I think it does matter, and I think it matters a lot."

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