U.S. President George W. Bush Interview by Radio Farda

March 19, 2008

Q Mr. President, thank you so much for your time in this interview with Radio Farda. On the beginning of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, what message do you wish to share with the people of Iran, especially with the Iranian women, as well as the young generation?

THE PRESIDENT: First, that the United States of America wishes everybody a happy New Year. Secondly, that the United States -- people of the United States respects the great Iranian history and culture. We have great respect for the people, and we've got problems with the government. We have problems with the government because the government has been threatening, has made decisions that -- and statements that really have isolated the people of Iran.

My message to the young in Iran is that some day your society will be free, and it will be a blessed time for you. My message to the women of Iran is that the women of America share your deep desire for children to be -- to grow up in a hopeful society and to live in peace.

Q Speaking of women of Iran, Mr. President, the majority of population in Iran are women. And even in the Iranian culture they are considered the foundation on which men deeply rely. Is there any plan, or could there be one, to promote and engage the Iranian women in the U.S. to a unified and centralized movement for a free and democratic Iran?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the people of Iran are going to have to come to the conclusion that a free country is in their interest. We, of course, support freedom movements all around the world. We're supporting a freedom movement on the Iranian border in Iraq. We are promoting and helping the Iraqis develop a free society. By the way, a free Iraq will help the Iranians see the blessings of a free society.

There's no doubt in my mind that the women will be leading freedom movements in Iran and elsewhere. And the role of the United States is to provide, you know, moral support without -- and other support without undermining their cause.

Q Mr. President, in this fifth anniversary of the Iraq war, what impact do you think a peaceful solution on the Iranian nuclear crisis and a normalization of our relations with Iran would have on the security and political situation in Iraq, and more generally in the whole Middle East?

THE PRESIDENT: I think that success in Iraq will first of all depend upon the Iraqis' desire to reconcile their differences and to live in peace -- and that's happening. It's hard work to overcome the -- a dictatorship like Saddam Hussein's, but nevertheless most Iraqis want to live in peace with their neighbor.

Secondly, a peaceful Iraq will depend upon making it clear to the Iranians to stop exporting weapons, from Iran into Iraq, that arm militias and arm criminal gangs that cause there to be harm for the innocent people.

Thirdly, it's very important for the neighborhood to understand that the United States is committed to peace and that we're not -- that we won't be run out because of violence; that we believe that we're there for the right reason, which is to promote freedom and peace.

The free -- you know, there's a chance that the U.S. and Iran can reconcile their differences, but the government is going to have to make some -- make different choices. And one is to verifiably suspend the enrichment of uranium, at which time there is a way forward. And the Iranian people have got to understand that the United States is going to be firm in our desire to prevent the nation from developing a nuclear weapon, but reasonable in our desire to see to it that you have civilian nuclear power without -- you know, without enabling the government to enrich.

And the problem is, is that they have not told the truth in the past. And therefore it's very difficult for the United States and the rest of the world -- or much of the rest of the world -- to trust the Iranian government when it comes to telling the truth. And so I support the Russian proposal to provide Iran with enriched uranium to go into a civilian nuclear power plant.

There's a way forward. In other words, I don't know what the Iranian people believe about the United States, but they must believe that we have proposed a way forward that will yield to peace. And it's their government that is resisting these changes.

Q Mr. President, as you and your allies launched a global initiative to combat nuclear terrorism, what do you think is your most important challenge to expose and stop the secretive ambition of Iran's government to enrich uranium, while assuring its citizens that their happiness and prosperity and peace is a benefit within their reach?

THE PRESIDENT: Sure, absolutely. Well, one thing is, is to reiterate my belief that the Iranians should have a civilian nuclear power program. It's in their right to have it. The problem is the government cannot be trusted to enrich uranium because one, they've hidden programs in the past and they may be hiding one now, who knows; and secondly, they've declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people -- some in the Middle East. And that's unacceptable to the United States and it's unacceptable to the world.

But what is acceptable to me is to work with a nation like Russia to provide the fuel so that the plan can go forward, and which therefore makes it -- you know, it shows that the Iranian government doesn't need to learn to enrich.

My only point to the Iranian people is we want you to be able to realize your sovereign rights. The government has been duplicitous to the world. Very few people trust your government. And if the government changes its behavior, there's a better way forward for the Iranian people.

Q Thank you. Mr. President, world democracy is everyone's rightful way of life. In Iran, on the other hand, there is no respect for the basic rights of Iranian citizen, there is no rule of law, and there is no, certainly, the freedom of speech. Do you believe that the people of Iran stand a chance against this regime, to bring about the positive change in any time soon with your support?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I would like very much for the Iranian people to realize a society based upon rule of law and free speech and free worship of religion. There's nothing I'd like to see more than a society in which young girls can grow up to realize their dreams with a good education system.

You know, this is a -- this regime, however, is one that sometimes when people express themselves in an open way, there can be serious punishment. This is a regime that says they have elections, but they get to decide who's on the ballot, which is not a free and fair election. So this is a regime and a society that's got a long way to go. But the people of Iran can be rest assured the United States, whether I'm President or the next President, will strongly support their desires to live in a free society.

Q May I have, Mr. President, my last question?


Q Thank you. You said many times that the U.S. missile defense system in Czech and Poland is to defend America and its European allies from attack by rogue states such as Iran. But some -- this argument is still between U.S. and Russia. Are you optimistic to solve the problem?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's interesting you ask that question. We intend to move forward with the -- and the Czech Republic and Poland for the good of NATO. Obviously it'd be -- make life easier if the Russians and the United States cooperated in such a missile defense. Condi Rice and Bob Gates -- Secretary Gates, Secretary Rice were in Russia this past couple of days talking about the very subject, as to whether or not we can find grounds to cooperate. The missile systems, defense systems, would not be aimed at Russia; they'd be aimed at nations that would, you know, try to hold the free world hostage with a nuclear weapon.

And so it's -- I'm optimistic. I'm cautiously optimistic. I don't know whether we can find common ground. But we are trying to find common ground, and that's what's -- that's the first step, is to make the attempt.

Q Thank you so much, Mr. President, for your time.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, ma'am, thank you.

END 1:33 P.M. EDT