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Bush: Israeli Apprehension Over Iran Justified

President Bush says Israel has reason to fear Iran, and that the United States remains committed to ensuring Israel's security.

At a news conference, President Bush was asked about the likelihood of Israel launching a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. Mr. Bush acknowledged enmity between Israel and Iran's leaders. "They do not like Israel, to put it bluntly," he said.

But the president quickly turned the initial question around. Mr. Bush said he believes it is Iran that poses a danger to Israel.

"If I was the leader of Israel, and I listened to some of the statements by the Iranian ayatollahs that regarded the security of my country, I would be concerned about Iran having a nuclear weapon, as well. And in that Israel is our ally, and we have made a very strong commitment to support Israel, we will support Israel if her security is threatened," he said.

Mr. Bush said everyone, Israel included, should be concerned about the prospect of Iran developing a nuclear weapon.

Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes - to satisfy the country's growing energy needs. But Iran has been criticized for not cooperating fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and European diplomatic initiatives have yet to yield an accord governing Iran's nuclear program.

Israel fiercely maintains its right to self-defense, even if that means taking pre-emptive action against regional powers. In 1981, Israel bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor.

President Bush said the United States will continue to pursue a diplomatic solution to the question of Iran's nuclear ambitions, and that the topic will be a high priority when he meets with European leaders next week.

"I look forward on this trip to discussing strategies, ways forward with the Europeans, to make sure we continue to speak with one voice. And that is [that] Iran should not have a nuclear weapon. And [we will consider] how to work together to make sure that they do not," he said.

Earlier this week, Iran and Syria announced a pact to confront security threats. Thursday, Iran called on nations throughout the region to join together to defeat what it termed U.S. and Israeli plots.