Bush Says Iran Sending Arms to Iraq

President Bush says he is convinced an elite Iranian military unit with government ties is putting weapons in the hands of Iraqi insurgents. But, as VOA's Paula Wolfson reports, Mr. Bush says he does not know for sure if Iran's top leaders are involved.

The weapons in question include the deadly roadside bombs that can pierce armor, and have claimed the lives of more than 170 coalition troops.

Military officials in Baghdad who briefed reporters Sunday said these weapons have markings that show the components were made in Iran. These officials, who spoke on the condition they would not be identified, linked the arms transfers to the highest levels of the Iranian government.

The following day, America's highest military officer, General Peter Pace, said that while he had no doubt the weapons came from Iran, there was no direct connection to Iranian leaders.

His comments, first reported by VOA, created a stir in Washington - suggesting a disconnect within the Bush administration. But when the general was asked again, he was adamant that just because the weapons came from Iran does not necessarily mean they were shipped on orders from top officials in Tehran.

"That does not translate to that the Iranian government per se [specifically], for sure, is directly involved in doing this," said General Pace.

President Bush finally weighed in personally on the matter at a White House news conference Wednesday.

The president sided with General Pace, saying he does not know for sure if the shipments were ordered by Iran's leaders, who have denied any involvement. But he said he was certain weapons were transferred to Iraq by members of an elite Iranian military unit - the al-Quds Force - with government ties.

"That's a known," said President Bush. "What we don't know is whether or not the head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds Force to do what they did."

Mr. Bush went on to say no matter what role the top echelons of the Iranian government have played in the weapons transfers, there is ample cause for concern.

"Whether [Iran's President] Ahmadinejad ordered the Quds force to do this, I don't know," he said. "But we do know that they are there and I intend to do something about it."

The president also brought up the dispute over Tehran's nuclear intentions, and warned of the potential of a nuclear armed Iran. Under questioning, he once again ruled out the possibility of direct talks between the United States and Iran on this controversial issue, saying success is much more likely when other countries are involved in the negotiations.

Britain, France and Germany are working with the United States to convince Iran to give up its nuclear processing program. Iran says it is creating fuel for nuclear power plants. But America and its allies stress the technology can also be used to make a nuclear bomb.

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