Briefing with Tony Snow, White House Press Secretary on Incentives to Iran (Excerpts)

May 23, 2006

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Q Tony, there's some talk coming out of the P5 plus Germany talks that there's some carrot and sticks on the table. Would America be ever in a position to sell commercial airplanes to Iran, or help with light-water nuclear reactors in exchange for Iran saying we will not pursue a nuclear weapons program?

MR. SNOW: Well, as you know, Jim, first things first. Iran has to make that declaration. Then we can start talking about other states [sic]. The United States all along has supported activities on the part of our negotiating partners to try to come up with some way to resolve peacefully and diplomatically the issue of whether Iran will create nuclear weapons. Our position is absolutely clear. We don't want it to happen. We want Iran to renounce it. I'm not going to prejudge what may happen after that point.

It's like when we're talking about North Korea. There's certain things that have to happen before we can proceed one step forward. We certainly support the efforts of our allies to make sure that the government of Iran renounces in a way that is verifiable any ambitions toward nuclear weapons and ceases the production of anything that could be used for nuclear weapons.

Q Those efforts seem to be getting more specific in nature, linking to things such as selling commercial airplanes to a country that badly needs them.

MR. SNOW: Well, at this point, the United States is not making any -- certainly not from this podium is not going to be making any proffers to the government of Iran.

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Q What's the President going to tell the Prime Minister about Iran today?

MR. SNOW: The President -- I'm not aware that the President is going to be lecturing the Prime Minister. What they're going to be doing is they're going to be talking about their common interests again in a non-nuclear Iran that can be a peaceful member of the neighborhood. Now, what the President has said in the past, and I think the Prime Minister will probably ask about this, is what about threats that have been issued from time to time of violence against Israel. And the President has made it very clear if Iran attacks Israel, the United States will come to the aid of Israel.

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Q A question on Iran. As far as Prime Minister of Israel's visit is concerned, here at the White House is the first meeting after so many threats from the Iranian President -- Iranian President and Hamas work on one, they are both friends and -- so what do you think that is possible to have peace in the region when Iran President making so many threats, even today, that nuclear weapon he is making is supposed to be used on Israel?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, we're engaged in ongoing diplomatic efforts to try to make sure that the government of Iran not only becomes a good neighbor in the region, but also renounces any nuclear ambitions.

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Q Tony, you said that if Iran attacked Israel, we'll come to the aid of Israel. I wonder if you'd be a little bit more specific. Would we be supporting them in their retaliation against Iran, or would we ourselves be retaliating against Iran?

MR. SNOW: I don't -- I'm not going to give you a specific answer because I've given you a general answer to a hypothetical question. I cannot give you a specific answer to a hypothetical question.

Q Do you have any kind of specifics --

MR. SNOW: No, I don't. I really don't, because what you're asking about is the categorization of -- I mean, if there's an attack it could take any number of forms, and a response could take any number of forms. And for me to begin trying to list them, again, would be, A, above my pay grade, and I think, B, irresponsible. I think just leaving it with the general statement that the President has given -- I can't go beyond what the President has said, and I'm not going to try.

Q Would you say then that nothing is off the table?

MR. SNOW: We've always said that.

Q Okay.

MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way: The use of force is off the table. All right? Let me be specific. That is what the President has said. Is that not correct?

Q Is off, or is not off?

MR. SNOW: I'm sorry -- is not off the table. Thank you. (Laughter.) Yes, it's on the table.

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Q Back to Iran, if I may. Does the President support the EU3 giving security guarantees to Iran within the incentives package?

MR. SNOW: You mean, in other words -- at this point, I think -- let me refer you back to my prior answers, which is, let's have Iran renounce and in a verifiable and credible way any nuclear ambitions, and then we'll start talking about terms and conditions.

What's interesting is that every time the EU3 or EU5 have made an offer to Iran, it's been rejected. So it's a little difficult for me to get up and try to say, if Iran does this, because so far, the only answer Iran has given is, no.

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