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Bush: Iran Has No Need to Enrich Uranium


President Bush says now that Iran has received an initial shipment of nuclear fuel for its Bushehr power plant from Russia, there is no need for Tehran to enrich uranium. VOA White House Correspondent Paula Wolfson has details.

President Bush says he has no objections to the nuclear fuel shipment from Russia. He says it is part of an effort designed to get Iran to suspend uranium enrichment - a process that could ultimately provide Tehran with the materials and know-how to build a nuclear weapon.

"If the Russians are willing to do that, which I support, then the Iranians do not need to learn how to enrich. If the Iranians accept that uranium for a civilian nuclear power plant, then there is no need for them to learn how to enrich."

Russia's foreign ministry has also called for Iran to halt enrichment. In a written statement, the ministry said Moscow believes new conditions have been created that it said would enable Tehran to meet western demands to stop its uranium enrichment program.

Iran has long maintained it has the right to enrich uranium as part of a civilian nuclear-energy program. And top officials in Iran have indicated they are not willing to stop, even with the delivery of Russian fuel.

President Bush says the stand taken by their government is hurting the Iranian people. "They are heading down a path of isolation right now and economic sanctions. We have passed two resolutions out of the U.N. and (US Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice is working on a third," he said.

But efforts to win support for additional U.N. sanctions may have suffered a setback with the recent release of a U.S. intelligence assessment of Iran's nuclear capabilities and intentions.

The report said Iran halted work on a nuclear weapons program in 2003 and as of mid-2007 had not restarted it.

President Bush says the intelligence assessment proves the Iranian government cannot be trusted. He says it shows Tehran remains a danger because it conducted a nuclear weapons program in secret and can reactivate it at any time.

"What is to say they could not start it up tomorrow? Since they tried to hide their program before, how would we know? And so my point on the Iranian issue is this: they owe an explanation to the world ... they need to tell the world why they had a program that they did not report," he said.

The president spoke during an appearance before community groups in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Although his formal remarks dealt almost exclusively with economic issues, he was asked about Iran and other matters during a question and answer session with his audience.

On the economy, the president once again sought to reassure the public that the nation's economic health is sound, despite recent turmoil in the housing and credit markets. He said, once again, that the underpinnings of the economy are good.