Press Briefing by Stephen Hadley on Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process and Bush's Perception of the National Intelligence Estimate (Excerpts)

January 10, 2008

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Q The various Israelis that the President met with today, what sorts of reassurances did they seek from him, beginning with Bebe Netanyahu? Did they specifically ask for a clarification of the NIE, and what did he tell them?

MR. HADLEY: The President said in private what he said in public: Iran was a threat before the NIE, was a threat on the day the NIE was issued, and continues to be a threat after the NIE has been issued. They continue to pursue the enrichment of nuclear materials, which gives them the know-how to develop fissile materials that they could put into a nuclear weapon; they continue to pursue ballistic missiles, a means to develop them.

And the nightmare we all have is, the world now having been satisfied by the NIE that they suspended their weaponization effort, one of the things he worries about and various countries we talk about, is that they will go ahead and use this -- the NIE as a basis for starting up the program again. And that's a concern. It's a worry he has, and it's a worry he heard from the Israeli side, and it's a worry, quite frankly, we've heard from many other allies.

So he continues to think this is a problem that, as he said -- he says the same thing privately that he says publicly: It is a problem. It needs to be handled diplomatically. And he is going to try and rally the international community to put more pressure on Iran so that its leadership will make a different kind of choice for the Iranian people.

Q One quick follow-up. As you know, there have been some discussions among Israelis both in the media, among Israeli officials, about the idea that they might have to -- the Israelis might have to take unilateral action of some kind.

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Q Did he attempt to persuade them not to do so?

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Q Did he attempt to persuade them not to take unilateral action of any kind -- did the Israeli officials he met with today -- against Iran?

MR. HADLEY: He's said to them what he's said in public: We need international effort to put pressure on Iran so their regime will make a different choice.

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