'America Would Back Israel Attack on Iran'
By Francis Harris
The Telegraph U.K.
Friday 18 February 2005
George W Bush added a new twist to the international tension over Iran's nuclear programme last
night by pledging to support Israel if it tries to destroy
the Islamic regime's capacity to make an atomic bomb.
whether he would back Israel if it raided Teheran's
nuclear facilities, Mr Bush first expressed cautious solidarity with European
efforts, led by Britain, France and Germany, to negotiate with Iran.
he quickly qualified himself, adding that all nations should be concerned about
whether Iran could make nuclear
if I was the leader of Israel and I'd listened to
some of the statements by the Iranian ayatollahs that regarded the security of
my country, I'd be concerned about Iran having a nuclear weapon
as well. And in that Israel is our ally, and in
that we've made a very strong commitment to support Israel, we will support Israel if her security is
comments appeared to be a departure from the administration's line that there
are no plans to attack at present and that Washington backs European
diplomatic efforts. The remarks may have reflected Mr Bush's personal thinking
on an issue causing deep concern in Washington.
later, Mr Bush was asked another question on Iran and appeared to return
to his script - this time emphasising the need for a diplomatic effort.
days before he arrives in Europe on a tour designed to
mend fences with estranged allies, he underscored the
differences still hobbling western policy towards the Middle East.
figures close to the United States administration believe
that the European diplomatic initiative is calculated more to dilute America's hardline approach to
weapons of mass destruction than to stop Iran's mullahs building a
Israel, meanwhile, has given
warning about Iran's nuclear ambitions, saying that an Iranian bomb might be only six
months away and that such a weapon would pose a grave risk to its security. Mr
Bush repeated the reasons for America's anxiety:
"Remember, this all started when we found [Iran] enriching uranium in
an undeclared fashion, and it happened because somebody told on them."
Iran's long march towards
becoming a nuclear power appeared to make a significant step forward yesterday
with the opening of a ¬£450 million reactor at Bushehr.
senior Russian nuclear official said he would go to Iran next week to sign a
protocol agreeing the return of spent nuclear fuel, the last remaining obstacle
to Bushehr's functioning. This will allow deliveries of Russian nuclear fuel.
protocol's signing has been repeatedly delayed. It aims to ease concerns that Iran could reprocess spent
nuclear fuel from Bushehr to extract plutonium, which could be used in nuclear
Iran's influential former
president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, speaking yesterday after meeting the Syrian
prime minister, Mohammad Naji al-Otari, said his country needed to create a
powerful alliance with Syria, Iraq and other Arab
Rafsanjani, widely expected to run in Iran's June presidential
elections, said the region must "stay completely vigilant vis-a-vis the US and Israeli
America has this week stepped
up its rhetoric against Syria following Monday's
murder of the former Lebanese premier, Rafik al-Hariri. Pro-Syrian elements
have been widely accused of involvement.
Bush called on Syria yesterday to obey a UN
resolution demanding that it remove its troops from Lebanon and restore the
said: "We've recalled our ambassador [from Damascus], which indicates the
relationship is not moving forward; that Syria is out of step with the
progress being made in the greater Middle East."