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Bush Reveals Reasons for Disclosure of Syrian Nuclear Program

U.S. President George Bush says the recent disclosure to members of Congress about alleged nuclear cooperation between North Korea and Syria was meant to send a tough message to both countries. In a wide-ranging news conference at the White House April 29, Mr. Bush also touted the NATO-led war effort in Afghanistan, spoke of peace between Israel and the Palestinians and called upon African nations to settled an election stalemate in Zimbabwe. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.

It is the first time President George Bush has spoken publicly about why he released pictures of a Syrian facility last week. The U.S. claims Syria was secretly building a nuclear reactor with North Korea's help. Last year, Israel bombed the site.

Mr. Bush said he wanted to pressure North Korea to end its own nuclear program while pressuring Syria to stop destabilizing the Middle East, which Syria has denied.

"One would be to the North Koreans to make it abundantly clear that we may know about you than you think and therefore it is essential that you have a complete disclosure on, not only on your plutonium activities but proliferation as well as enrichment activities." Mr. Bush said, speaking to reporters at a White House news conference.

On the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, Mr. Bush said it is succeeding, though he predicted more tough battles ahead against what he called "a very determined enemy."

"In Afghanistan, yes we are making progress," he said. "Does that mean that it is over? No, it does not mean that it is over. We are in a long struggle, as I have told you many times, against these jihadists. You defeat them ultimately by advancing democracy."

On other topics, Mr. Bush said he is still hopeful that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal can be reached before he leaves office in January. The president said the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, is undermining peace efforts in the region.

"The problem is Hamas. And until Hamas changes or until there is a competing vision in the Middle East for President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad to offer to the Palestinian people, that is all the more reason to try and define a [Palestinian] state,” the president said.

Mr. Bush also focused on the election stalemate in Zimbabwe. He called on the government of President Robert Mugabe to respect the will of the people. Mr. Bush said they voted for change in the March 29 election.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's party won control of parliament from Mr. Mugabe's ruling party. Results of the presidential election have not been released but Tsvangirai claimed victory and the U.S. agreed. President Bush called on nearby African countries to help.

"It is really incumbent on the nations in the neighborhood to step up and lead and recognize that the will of the people must be respected and recognize that will came about because they are tired of failed leadership,” President Bush said.

Mr. Bush also called for an end to what he called "government-sponsored violence and intimidation" against members of the opposition party.