Joint Press Conference with U.S. President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (Excerpts)

November 13, 2006

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PRESIDENT BUSH: . . . We spent a great deal of time on Iran, and about how we can work together with other nations of the world to convince the Iranians to abandon their nuclear weapons ambitions. I recognize the threat to world peace that the Iranians propose -- that the Iranians pose, as does the Prime Minister.

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PRIME MINISTER OLMERT: . . . We shared thoughts about the Iranian threat. There is no question that the Iranian threat is not just a threat for Israel, but for the whole world. The fanaticism and the extremism of the Iranian government, and the fact that the leader of a nation such as Iran can threaten the very existence of another nation, as he does towards the state of Israel, is not something that we can tolerate or would ever tolerate, and certainly not when we know that he is trying to possess nuclear weapons. And I'm very encouraged by our discussion and thoughts that we have exchanged about what needs to be done in the Middle East.

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Q: Yes, Mr. President, Tony Blair today is going to be calling for a reaching out to both Syria and Iran to help calm the situation in Iraq. What is your response to that?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I haven't seen his comments, but you just heard my response on Syria. And my comments on Iran is this: if the Iranians want to have a dialogue with us, we have shown them a way forward, and that is for them to verify -- verifiably suspend their enrichment activities. We put that proposal on the table awhile back. We said that if you want to have a dialogue with us, we're willing to come to the table with the EU, as well as Russia and China, to discuss a way forward. But first, you must verifiably suspend your enrichment activities.

Our focus of this administration is to convince the Iranians to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions. And that focus is based upon our strong desire for there to be peace in the Middle East. And an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be a destabilizing influence. And so we have made it very clear, our position regards Iran, and it hasn't changed.

Q: Mr. President, do you think that it's better to impose sanctions on Iran or to handle dialogue with them? And to you, Mr. Prime Minister, the same question, this time in Hebrew for our viewers at home.

PRESIDENT BUSH: I think it's very important for the world to unite with one common voice to say to the Iranians that, if you choose to continue forward, you'll be isolated. And one source of isolation would be economic isolation. In other words, there has to be a consequence for their intransigence. They have -- we went to the United Nations, we made it very clear -- we, being a lot of the world -- have made it clear that the Iranian nuclear weapons ambitions are not in the world's interest. And therefore, if they continue to move forward with a program, there has to be a consequence. And a good place to start is working together to isolate the country.

And my hope is, is that there are rational people inside the government that recognize isolation is not in their country's interest. And I also, when I speak about Iran, speak about a government, not about the Iranian people. I believe the Iranian people want a better way forward. I don't think they want to confront the world. I believe they need -- I believe they could benefit by more trade and more openness with the world. But their leaders have to make the decision, and the decision is abundantly clear to them. And I say this in the interest of world peace, that if Iran has a nuclear weapon, it will be incredibly destabilizing and obviously threatening to our strong ally.

And so my attitude is let's work in concert to convince the government that it's not just the Israeli voices speaking, or the United States' voices speaking, but there's a lot of other voices saying the exact same thing, and present them with a choice.

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PRIME MINISTER OLMERT: The stand we are taking on the Iran issue is that every effort must be made to ensure that the Iranians are unable to cross the technological threshold which will allow them later to develop nuclear weapons. I had a very long talk with the President on this matter, and there is complete agreement between us as to the goals. The central issue is, as he also said, that Iran must understand that there are consequences to its unwillingness to reach a compromise which will prevent the possibility that it will develop nuclear weapons.

Of course, the question is, what those consequences are, what means will be used. Naturally, these are not matters on which I need to expand. I completely support the great effort the President is making to ensure that Iran does not attain nuclear weapons, and I can say that I am very encouraged by our conversation, and that it was much more detailed and specific than anything I can or want to say here.

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