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Bush warns Iran against fueling violence in Iraq

Reuters | January 29, 2007
Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON, Jan 29 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush vowed on Monday to respond firmly if Tehran foments violence inside Iraq, but said he had no intention of invading Iran.

Washington has accused Tehran of undermining efforts to stabilize Iraq and of pursuing nuclear weapons. Two U.S. aircraft carriers have been stationed in the Gulf as a warning to the Islamic republic.

"If Iran escalates its military action in Iraq to the detriment of our troops and, or, innocent Iraqi people, we will respond firmly," Bush told NPR in an interview.

The Bush administration has repeatedly told Iran not to fuel violence in Iraq, and U.S. forces detained a number of Iranian officials in raids over the past month in Iraq.

Bush has insisted he wants to resolve the nuclear dispute with Iran diplomatically, but also has kept his options open. Iran denies it is developing nuclear weapons, saying it only wants to make electricity.

Bush's comments on Iran, along with tougher financial sanctions and actions against Iranian involvement in Iraq, have revived speculation about a possible U.S. attack on Iran.

Some war critics say the administration's language on Iran echoes comments made leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

But Bush said he intended to protect U.S. troops, not invade Iran. "I have no intent upon ... going into Iran," he said.

"People ascribe, you know, motives to me beyond a simple statement -- of course we'll protect our troops," Bush said. "I don't know how anybody can then say, well, protecting the troops means that we're going to invade Iran."

Hassan Kazemi Qomi, Iran's ambassador to Iraq, told The New York Times in an interview published on Monday that Iran was taking steps to expand military and economic ties with Iraq and was prepared to offer training, equipment and advisers for "the security fight," and help with reconstruction efforts.

The United States would watch to see whether Iran follows through on that statement of intent, White House spokesman Tony Snow said. "We would certainly welcome Iran to start playing a constructive role in the region," he said.

The White House accuses Iran of helping arm insurgents in Iraq and involvement in activities that led to the deaths of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians.

"And if we find the Iranians are moving weapons that will end up harming American troops, we'll deal with it," Bush said.

He reiterated that the dispute over Iran's nuclear ambitions could be solved diplomatically.

"And the message that we are working to send to the Iranian regime and the Iranian people is that you will become increasingly isolated if you continue to pursue a nuclear weapon," Bush said.

"The message to the Iranian people is that your government is going to cause you deprivation."

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