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Bush Says US, Israel United Against Iran's Nuclear Ambitions


U.S. President George Bush says the United States and Israel are determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Mr. Bush is in Israel for events marking the nation's 60th anniversary.

President Bush says America stands with the Jewish state in breaking up terrorist networks and opposing what he calls Iran's ambition to develop nuclear weapons.

"Permitting the world's leading sponsor of terror to possess the world's deadliest weapons would be an unforgivable betrayal for future generations," he said. "For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says his nation's nuclear program is about generating electricity not weapons.

President Bush spoke at a special session of Israel's parliament marking the special relationship between the United States and Israel. Sixty years ago this week, U.S. President Harry Truman was the first to formally recognize Israel, just 11 minutes after its independence from British rule.

As part of this trip, President Bush is hoping to encourage Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to agree on the outline of a separate Palestinian state before he leaves office in January.

But his remarks to the Knesset made no mention of a timetable for that state or how to unite Palestinians who are divided between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Fatah in the West Bank.

Looking ahead 60 years, President Bush says he envisions a Palestinian state governed by law, respecting human rights, and rejecting terror.

"From Cairo to Riyadh, to Baghdad and Beirut, people will live in free and independent societies, where a desire for peace is reinforced by ties of diplomacy, tourism, and trade," he said. "Iran and Syria will be peaceful nations, where today's oppression is a distant memory, where people are free to speak their minds and develop their talents. And al Qaida, Hezbollah, and Hamas will be defeated, as Muslims across the region recognize the emptiness of the terrorists' vision and the injustice of their cause."

The president and Mrs. Bush have been the guests of honor at a series of events marking Israel's 60th anniversary. But it is a time of sadness for Palestinians who were displaced by Israel's founding.

Militants in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket at a shopping mall in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon Wednesday as President Bush met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

John Alterman directs the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a public policy research group in Washington. He says there is a tone of sobriety pervading this anniversary.

"For all the celebratory hoopla around Israel's 60th birthday there is also a real sort of bitterness, not quite bittersweet but a real sense that this is not what it was supposed to be, that Israel's 60th birthday is a story of survival, but not a story of triumph," said Alterman.

"That Israel is facing its 60th birthday with much darker prospects than it thought it would have 10 years ago at its 50th birthday. And that Israel has its 60th birthday with a sense that it may remain in conflict for its entire existence as a state," he continued.

President Bush leaves Israel Friday for Saudi Arabia and talks with King Abdallah. He will then travel to Egypt for separate meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Jordanian King Abdullah, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

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