Interview with President George W. Bush by Bild (Excerpts)

May 5, 2006

Interview of the President by Kai Diekmann of Bild

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Q But Iraq, it's still a long journey to peace, and now there's a new threat. You already mentioned it, that is Iran.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q Iran is on the way to a nuclear program. How are we going to prevent them from making true what they threaten us, for example, in destroying Israel?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, it's interesting, the world in which we live is one that requires great confidence in our values and strength of purpose. And we are challenged with the Iranian issue. And I want your readers to know that it is my desire and my belief we can solve this diplomatically. And the best way to solve this issue diplomatically is for there to be common purpose amongst the nations of the world.

Any diplomatic solution requires agreement on the goal. And there is solid agreement that the Iranians should not have a nuclear weapon, or the knowledge and capacity how to make a nuclear weapon. That agreement -- when I say that's the agreement, it's the agreement amongst Germany, France, Great Britain, the United States, Russia, China, and a lot of other nations. We all agree. And that's the most important step. If we didn't agree on the goal, it would be impossible to put together a coalition, a group of nations anxious to say to the Iranians with one voice, you're not going to have a weapon.

The way forward diplomatically, because of the intransigence of the Iranian government, is to go into the United Nations Security Council. And that's where we're headed. And we are working closely with our counterparts to develop the tactics to move forward once in the United Nations Security Council. Our message there is, the Iranians have defied the world, and you're now isolated. And it's your choice to make. They must make the choice to give up their weapons.

People have said to me, well, why aren't you at the negotiating table? We are at the negotiating table -- in this sense: We're with our partners on a regular basis. I think about this issue a lot. I talk to respective leaders a lot; the United States laid down the Security Council resolution, along with others. I speak to Angela Merkel quite frequently on this subject. It is the number-one item on our agenda, when it comes to international coalitions. And the thing that we've got to do is be effective. And what the Iranians are looking forward is weakness among our group. They want to see how firm we are. So one of my jobs is to keep people firm in our resolve. And it's easy, by the way, with your Chancellor. She is firm in her resolve.

Q The German Chancellor and the new head of state, Olmert of Israel, they said the Iranian President is as dangerous as Adolf Hitler. Do you share their view?

THE PRESIDENT: I think that it's very important for us to take his words very seriously. When people speak, it is important that we listen carefully to what they say and take them seriously. For example, when al Qaeda speaks, I take their words seriously. When bin Laden says we'll bring harm to the West, I take them seriously. When Zarqawi says it's just a matter of time for the U.S. to get out of Iraq so we can have safe haven, I take him seriously. Zawahiri, the number two man in al Qaeda, he's constantly speaking about their grand designs to spread their ideology.

And when Ahmadinejad speaks, we need to take it seriously, and when he says he wants to destroy Israel, the world needs to take that very seriously. It's a serious threat. It's a threat to an ally of the United States and Germany. But what he's also saying is, if he's willing to destroy one country, he'd be willing to destroy other countries. And, therefore, this is a threat that has got to be dealt with in a way that -- where the world -- this is an important moment for the world to come together and deal with this in a way that's diplomatic, so that the next person who thinks, or the next country that thinks they can threaten, will understand that there is an effective response.

Q Do you rule out, as a last resort a military intervention against Iran?

THE PRESIDENT: As you know, I have said this on German soil, I've said it on U.S. soil, that my first choice is to solve this diplomatically. I think we can, but all options are on the table.

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Q During a state visit in 1989, your father described Germany as "partner leadership."

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q Does this statement still apply today?

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. Absolutely. And it's manifesting itself on the Iranian issue. Chancellor Merkel has been strong. It's very important for the Iranians to know that there is a Germany committed to working with others to send the strong message to the Iranians that their nuclear ambitions, their nuclear weapons ambitions, will cause them isolation in the world in which we live.

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