- The Washington Times - Monday, April 10, 2006

President Bush yesterday said that preventing Iran from building a nuclear bomb does not necessarily require the use of military force, adding that anyone who says otherwise is engaging in “wild speculation.”

“I know we’re here in Washington, [where] prevention means force,” the president said during an appearance at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. “It doesn’t mean force necessarily. In this case, it means diplomacy.”

Mr. Bush said he decided “early on” to enlist the aid of allies, including Britain, Germany and France, in order to build a multinational coalition to put pressure on a country he deemed part of the “axis of evil” in 2002.

“We do not want the Iranians to have a nuclear weapon, the capacity to make a nuclear weapon, or the knowledge as to how to make a nuclear weapon. That’s our stated goal. … And the good news is, is that many in the world have come to that conclusion,” Mr. Bush said.

The president drew laughter from the crowd when he said: “I got out a little early on the issue by saying, ‘axis of evil.’”

“But I meant it. I saw it as a problem. And now, many others have — have come to the conclusion that the Iranians should not have a nuclear weapon,” he said.

The president dismissed weekend reports — first in New Yorker magazine, then in The Washington Post and the New York Times — that claimed the Bush administration is weighing the use of nuclear bombs against Iran’s underground nuclear sites.

“By the way, I read the articles in the newspapers this weekend,” he said. “What you’re reading is wild speculation, which … happens quite frequently here in the nation’s capital.”

White House press secretary Scott McClellan went further, deriding the reporting in the stories.

“Those who are seeking to draw broad conclusions based on normal military contingency planning are misinformed or not knowledgeable about the administration’s thinking,” he said.

The U.N. Security Council on March 29 gave Iran 30 days to stop its uranium-enrichment program. But Iran has so far refused to halt its nuclear activity, saying the small-scale enrichment project was strictly for research and not for development of nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile yesterday, Iran’s hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told his nation not to be frightened by Western “bullying” over the country’s nuclear ambitions, and his government dismissed as “psychological warfare” reports that the United States was drawing up plans for military action.

“Our enemies know that they can’t cause a minute’s pause in our nation’s motion forward,” Mr. Ahmadinejad told thousands of people gathered in Mashad, Iran.

“Unfortunately, today some bullying powers are unable to give up their bullying nature. The future will prove that our path was a right way,” he said.

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