President Bush warned Wednesday of a nuclear-armed Iran but did not rule out that the United States would negotiate with its provocative leader if he gives up his suspected nuclear weapons ambitions.
Bush said it’s important for the United States to stay engaged in neighboring Iraq to convince the Iranians that the U.S. is committed to democratic reform in the region.
“There would be nothing worse for world peace than if the Iranians believed that the United States did not have the will and commitment to help young democracies survive,” Bush told businessmen and women where he took questions after a talk on government spending.
“If we left before the job was done, there would be chaos,” Bush said about withdrawing U.S. troops prematurely from Iraq. “Chaos would embolden not only the extremists and radicals that would like to do us harm, but it would also embolden Iran. What you don’t want is to have a nuclear arms race taking place in the Middle East.”
He denounced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his remarks about destroying Israel.
“In Iran, we’re dealing with a country where the leader has said that he wants to destroy Israel,” Bush said. “My belief is that the United States will defend our ally Israel. This is a leader who has made very provocative statements. And, we have made it clear, however, that in spite of that, we are willing to sit down with him, so long as he suspends his program.”
“In other words, it’s his choice, it’s not mine anymore. So I believe that’s the best way to achieve an objective,” the president added.
“If your question is, will you ever sit down with them? We’ve proven we would with North Korea. And the answer is yeah, just so long as we can achieve something, so long as we are able to get our objective.”
Bush vetoes kids' health bill
Bush traveled to Pennsylvania Dutch country after vetoing a bill that would have expanded health insurance coverage for children. He spoke before members of the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry in a Republican-friendly enclave of the state.
Bush, who has threatened to veto 9 of 12 annual appropriations bills, wants the GOP to be seen as the party of fiscal disciplinarians. Democrats, however, say the billions spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan dwarf the far smaller increases they want in domestic programs.
Bush said the five-year budget proposed by the Democratic leadership of Congress would increase spending by $205 billion over five years.
“All these programs sound wonderful,” he said. “Except how are you going to pay for it? ... And the answer is raising taxes.”
The president’s motorcade winded through cornfields and tidy neighborhoods on its way to a warehouse, owned by The Jay Group, a marketing firm. About 70 pro- and anti-Bush demonstrators stood outside.
Nick Meley, a 52-year-old contractor from Columbia, held a sign calling Bush the “worst president ever.”
“Do I need to say Iraq? Every part of that, from the beginning to where we are now, has been mistake after mistake after mistake,” he said.
A Bush supporter, Louis Gable, an 82-year-old World War II vet from Lancaster, said there are no simple answers to the war. “Everyone tries to second-guess,” he said. “What would you or I do if we were there?”