Interview with President George W. Bush by Ard German Television (Excerpts)

May 4, 2006

Interview of the President by Sabine Christiansen of ARD German Television

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Q Now there is Iran on the agenda, and there you seem to be a team that plays together, in that. Are you confident after your meeting with Mrs. Merkel that the Europeans and others will support a resolution that might even open the door to sanctions?

THE PRESIDENT: Look, first of all, the most important thing in achieving a diplomatic solution -- and I want the German people to understand -- I want this issue to be solved diplomatically and I think it can be solved diplomatically. And that the first objective of trying to get different countries to come together in a diplomatic front is to agree that Iran -- in this case, Iran should not have a weapon. And we've agreed -- Germany, France, the United States, certainly agree with that. But so does Russia. So does China. And that's a really important part of putting together a coalition of people saying with a universal voice, or unified voice, "no" to Iran.

Q Okay. At the --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's right.

Secondly, we're working with our allies to -- now that the Iranians, by the way, have basically said we don't care, what next? And "what next" is to go to the U.N. Security Council. And that's what we're working on now. And we're working on the language of the resolutions and the consequences. And as I told the press yesterday, it's best not to be describing the negotiations amongst ourselves on TV -- simply because the Iranians will be listening to everything we say.

But the point is, is that we want a unified front. Iran must hear that the free world is unified in saying: no weapon; no knowledge of how to build a weapon; no capacity to make a weapon. It's almost a matter of will at this point in time. In other words, they're watching to see whether or not our coalition will crack, whether or not they can create different factions within our coalition.

And as I've described to people here in this country, is that we must not crack. If we want to solve this diplomatically, there must be a common front with a common strategy to achieve the objective.

Q If this doesn't work with the U.N., you trying to find wide coalition that is going against Iran --

THE PRESIDENT: Expand the coalition.

Q Exactly. Exactly.

THE PRESIDENT: And they're not mutually exclusive. And first of all, I think we ought to assume it can work in the U.N.. We want it to work in the U.N. Therefore, the strategy will be to see to it that it does work in the U.N. And that's why -- you know, I talked to Putin, President Putin the other day, right before Angela came. And she talked to President Putin in Siberia, as you know. And a lot of our conversations obviously revolve around Iran, since this is the most dangerous threat to peace right now.

Q And sanctions?

THE PRESIDENT: Possibility, absolutely.

Q But regarding Russia and China? That will be difficult --

THE PRESIDENT: No. It may seem difficult at this point in time, but there's time. As I explained, again, to people in our country, we're at the beginning of the diplomatic process, not the end of the diplomatic process. I know -- we live in a world where everything has to be solved instantly. I wish problems could be solved instantly, but that's not how the world works, particularly when you're dealing with a non-transparent regime.

See, they have an advantage, "they" being the Iranians. They don't have a press like the German press and the United States press, that is constantly reporting. They don't have democracies that are holding leaders to account. They're non-transparent. So, therefore, their negotiating position is much stronger than ours in many ways.

So we must double our efforts, constantly talking to each other, reminding each other about the need to stay unified, and that's what Angela and I spent a lot of time talking about yesterday.

Q Why isn't Washington talking directly to the Iranians?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, because it's much better to have a united front. In other words, we will achieve this diplomatically. If there's more than one country involved -- we are very much involved. Yesterday, we were part of putting down a U.N. Security Council Resolution. The Iranians know we're involved. But what I don't want to have happen is this unified effort fall apart because everybody depends upon one country to solve the problem.

Q If all diplomatic efforts fail, what's worse at the end: a nuclear-armed Iran, or an American military action?

THE PRESIDENT: You're asking me the classic hypothetical question. I believe we can achieve this diplomatically. And that's what I want to do. I want to achieve this diplomatically, because it's -- and it's necessary we do so. And an armed Iran will be a threat to peace. It will be a threat to peace in the Middle East, it will create a sense of blackmail, it will encourage other nations to feel like they need to have a nuclear weapon. And so it's essential that we succeed diplomatically.

Q Are you worried that Israel might not try to solve this diplomatically, because Mr. Olmert already said, "We can defend ourselves?"

THE PRESIDENT: Well, if I were an Israeli, I'd be concerned about the combination of a president that said, I want to wipe Israel off the map, and had a nuclear weapon. And so, obviously, Israel is a factor. It's a little country that will defend herself. Again, I keep repeating this, but that's why it's essential we continue to work together, like we're doing now, to convince the Iranians to give up their weapon.

They will be isolated. What they need to understand is that they're going to be isolated from the rest of the world, and that will harm their people, in my judgment. And it's a tough issue, and it's why I ran for office, to solve these problems.

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