Bush Nixes Nukes For Iran

Just days before his State of The Union address, President Bush addressed a variety of critical issues – from the Iranian nuclear threat and Hamas election victory to the handling of Hurricane Katrina and the epidemic of bitterness in Washington – in an exclusive interview Friday with CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer.

During a 20-minute interview in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Mr. Bush took a hard line against Iran's nuclear ambitions: "The Free World cannot allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon," he said.

The president said he would pursue a policy in which a coalition of nations would bring pressure to bear on Iran.

"Our strategy is to present and... hold together a united front to say to the Iranians your designs to have a nuclear weapon or your desire to have the capability of making a nuclear weapon is unacceptable," he said.

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Mr. Bush added that referring Iran to the United Nations Security Council is still a possibility and that he has not taken the military option off the table.

"All options should be on the table, and the last option is the military option. We have got to work hard to exhaust all diplomacy and … that's what the country is seeing happen," he said.

Mr. Bush addressed a variety of other issues:

  • In the wake of the Palestinian elections, Mr. Bush repeated his warning to Hamas to renounce violence and said that the Unites States would not help a government that wants to destroy Israel.

    "One, they've got to get rid of that arm of their party which is armed and violent, and secondly, they have got to get rid of that part of their platform that says they want to destroy Israel. And if they don't, we won't deal with them," he said.

  • On the subject of Iraq, Mr. Bush said that public support for the war began to erode because people were jaded by images of death on the media.

    "My job is not only Commander-In-Chief but educator-in-chief. And I needed to say to the people, you bet it's tough," he said, adding later, "I'm not so sure you've got the desire or the plan to win, and that's what I've been trying to articulate, is we do have a plan to win, and we are winning."

    But Mr. Bush stopped short of offering a specific time frame for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, insisting he would leave troop level decisions to the commanders on the ground.

    "One of the interesting lessons from the Vietnam era was it seemed like to me that politicians all were making the decisions and not the commanders on the ground a lot of times," he said. "I have vowed that the American people, and I will follow through on that--that if General Casey and the generals there in Iraq that will be making the decisions as to the troop levels."

  • Regarding Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Bush conceded mistakes were made, saying there was "no question we could have done a better job."
  • Mr. Bush continued to defend his domestic spying program, saying that it "wasn't an easy decision to make" but was a necessary tool in the war on terrorism.

    "I made the decision to listen to phone calls of al Qaeda or suspected al Qaeda from outside the country coming in or inside the country going out because the people, our operators, told me that this is one of the best ways to protect the American people," he said.