Bush to discuss plans to counter Iran during Middle East visit

US President speaks to Arab newspapers ahead of trip which will include Israel, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and others.

bush 224,88 (photo credit: AP)
bush 224,88
(photo credit: AP)
US President George W. Bush will work with Middle East allies to develop a security plan to counter Iran during his upcoming visit to the region, according to an interview with leading Arab newspapers published Saturday. Bush did not provide details about the plan, but Arab diplomats told The Associated Press that they expect the US president to offer closer military cooperation with moderate allies in the Persian Gulf, Egypt and Jordan. The plan is aimed at deterring Iran from threatening security in the region after a potential troop reduction in Iraq, said the diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. In Friday's interview, Bush said the US and its Middle East allies needed to develop a strategy to deal with Iran because the country and its nuclear program remained "a threat to peace." "Will we be working with friends and allies on developing a security plan? And the answer to that question is, absolutely, we will be," said Bush, according to an English transcript of the interview, which was held at the White House. "That's one of the main purposes of the trip, to talk about US commitment to the region," Bush added. The president urged the international community to keep up the pressure in Iran despite a recent US intelligence report saying Teheran suspended nuclear weapons development in 2003 and had not restarted it. "It's important for the people in the region to know that while all options remain on the table, that I believe we can solve this problem diplomatically, and the way to do that is to continue to isolate Iran in the international community," Bush said. Bush is scheduled to begin his upcoming Middle East trip in Israel on Wednesday and will also visit the West Bank, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. There has been speculation that he will also visit Lebanon and Iraq, but the White House has not confirmed that.