Press Conference with President George W. Bush on Incentives to Iran (Excerpts)

March 16, 2005

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Q Yes, sir. The Iranians have dismissed the European incentive as insignificant. Should more incentives be offered? How long do they have until you take their case to the Security Council?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I -- first of all, I want to thank our European friends for taking the lead on this issue, telling the Iranians that they should permanently abandon any enrichment or reprocessing to make sure that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon.

Let me review the bidding on this, if I might, just kind of the history, right quick. Iran has concealed its -- a nuclear program. That became discovered, not because of their compliance with the IAEA or NPT, but because a dissident group pointed it out to the world, and -- which raised suspicions about the intentions of the program. You can understand why. It's a non-transparent regime, they're run by a handful of people. And so suspicions were raised. And as a result of those suspicions, we came together with friends and allies to seek a guarantee that they wouldn't use any nuclear program to make weapons. A lot of people understand that if they did have a weapon, it would create incredible instability; it wouldn't be good for world peace.

And so the best way to do that -- and this is where we are in the talks -- was to say to the Iranians that they must permanently abandon enrichment and reprocessing. And the EU 3 meant it. And now we're waiting for an Iranian response.

Q So how long do you -- how long do you wait? When do you go to the Security Council?

THE PRESIDENT: The understanding is we go to the Security Council if they reject the offer. And I hope they don't. I hope they realize the world is clear about making sure that they don't end up with a nuclear weapon.

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Q Mr. President, do you think there should be regime change in Iran? And if so, what are you prepared to do to see that happen?

THE PRESIDENT: Richard, I believe that the Iranian people ought to be allowed to freely discuss opinions, read a free press, have free votes, be able to choose amongst political parties. I believe Iran should adopt democracy; that's what I believe.

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Q Thank you. You talked about going to the Security Council if Iran turns down this EU 3 deal. Iran says they're not making nuclear weapons. Are we looking at a potential military confrontation with Iran?

THE PRESIDENT: No, we've got a lot of diplomacy, you know. There's a lot of diplomacy on this issue. And that's why I was so pleased to be able to participate with our friends, France and Great Britain and Germany, to say to the Iranians, we speak with a common voice, and we share suspicions because of your past behavior. And the best way to ensure that you do not develop a nuclear weapon is for you to have no enrichment of plutonium -- of -- have no highly enriched uranium program or plutonium program that could lead to a weapon. That's what we've said.

And we just started the process -- we just had the discussion. How long ago was I in Europe? Maybe 10 days, or so? Two weeks? About two weeks? I mean, it takes a while for things to happen in the world, David. I mean, I know there's a certain impatience with a never-ending news cycle. But things don't happen on -- necessarily overnight the way some would like them, you know, solve this issue and we go to the next issue. There's a certain patience required in order to achieve a diplomatic objective. And our diplomatic objective is to continue working with our friends to make it clear to Iran we speak with a single voice.

Listen, whoever thought about modernizing this room deserves a lot of credit. (Laughter.) Like, there's very little oxygen in here anymore. (Laughter.) And so, for the sake of a health press corps and a healthy President, I'm going to end the press conference. But I want to thank you for giving me a chance to come by and visit. I wish you all -- genuinely wish you all a happy Easter holiday with you and your family.

Thank you.

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