President Bush says if Iran escalates violence in Iraq, the United States will respond firmly. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from the White House that Mr. Bush says he will do whatever it takes to protect American troops.
President Bush says if Iran foments violence in Iraq, he will take action.
"If Iran escalates its military action in Iraq to the detriment of our troops and, or, innocent Iraqi people, we will respond firmly," said President Bush.
In an interview with National Public Radio Monday, Mr. Bush sounded familiar themes.
He urged Tehran not to - in his words - "sow discord and harm" in Iraq.
At the same time, the president stressed America's relationship with Iran is based on many issues. Tehran's attitude toward neighboring Iraq is one. Iran's nuclear program is another.
Iran says it is pursuing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. But the United States and other nations contend the civilian energy program is merely a cover for the development of nuclear weapons.
President Bush told NPR he intends to resolve the nuclear standoff diplomatically. And he indicated if Iran's government proceeds with its nuclear enrichment program - which could create fuel for atomic weapons as well as for power plants - sanctions could result.
"The message to the Iranian people is that your government is going to cause you deprivation," he said. "In other words, you've got a chance to really flourish again as a great tradition [culture]. However, if your government continues to insist upon a nuclear weapon, there will be a lost opportunity for the Iranian people. They won't be able to realize their full potential."
His comments came on the same day the New York Times newspaper published an interview with Iran's ambassador to Iraq. Hassan Kazemi Qomi told the newspaper Tehran seeks greater military and economic ties with Baghdad.
White House Spokesman Tony Snow' response was skeptical of Iran's intentions. He said so far, Iran's actions in Iraq have not been positive.
"There is a statement of intent and we will see how they follow through on it," said Tony Snow. "We would certainly welcome Iran to start playing a constructive role in the region. And among other things, they could stop smuggling arms - or at least contributing arms. They could stop contributing to terrorist organizations. They could stop supporting Hezbollah."
Snow noted Iraq has a sovereign government that is free to establish any ties it wishes with its neighbors. But he went on to say Iraq's leaders are not about to take any action that would be detrimental to the nation's security or prosperity.