Tribute to the Military

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Bush and Blair Middle East Conference

Courtesy of Iranian Focus

London, Dec. 08 – The following are excerpts of remarks made by United States President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair at a joint press conference in Washington, DC, in reaction to the Iraqi Study Group’s recent report on a new approach for establishing a free and secure Iraq. The excerpts primarily relate to the Iran factor.

PRESIDENT BUSH: The increase in sectarian attacks we're seeing in and around Baghdad are unsettling. It has led to much debate in both our countries about the nature of the war that is taking place in Iraq. And it is true that Sunni and Shia extremists are targeting each other's innocent civilians and engaging in brutal reprisals. It's also true that forces beyond Iraq's borders contribute to this violence. And the Prime Minister put it this way, he said, "The violence is not an accident or a result of faulty planning. It is a deliberate strategy. It is the direct result of outside extremists teaming up with internal extremists -- al Qaeda with the Sunni insurgents, and Iran with the Shia militia -- to foment hatred and to throttle, at birth, the possibility of a non-sectarian democracy." You were right, and I appreciate your comments.

The primary victims of the sectarian violence are the moderate majority of Iraqis -- Sunni and Shia alike -- who want a future of peace. The primary beneficiaries are Sunni and Shia extremists, inside and outside of Iraq, who want chaos in that country so they can take control and further their ambitions to dominate the region.

These Sunni and Shia extremists have important differences, yet they agree on one thing: the rise of free and democratic societies in the Middle East where people can practice their faith, choose their leaders, and live together in peace would be a decisive blow to their cause.

And so they're supporting extremists across the region who are working to undermine young democracies. Just think about the Middle East. In Iraq, they support terrorists and death squads who are fomenting sectarian violence in an effort to bring down the elected government of Prime Minister Maliki. In Lebanon, they're supporting Hezbollah, which recently declared its intention to force the collapse of Prime Minister Siniora's democratically-elected parliament and government. In Afghanistan, they're supporting remnants of the Taliban that are seeking to destabilize President Karzai's government and regain power. In the Palestinian Territories, they are working to stop moderate leaders like President Abbas from making progress toward the vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.


PRESIDENT BUSH: But there's a lot of very important things in the report that we ought to seriously consider. ... It talked about the regional -- the countries in the region, and the responsibilities of the region to help this Iraqi government. And the idea of having an international group is an interesting idea. We've already got the compact, and I think the Baker-Hamilton report suggests that we broaden the compact beyond just economic measures.

But one thing is for certain, when people-- if people come to the table to discuss Iraq, they need to come understanding their responsibilities to not fund terrorists, to help this young democracy survive, to help with the economics of the country. And if people are not committed, if Syria and Iran is not committed to that concept, then they shouldn't bother to show up.


PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: But then there are responsibilities, as the President was saying a moment or two ago, on the region and the neighbors. And let me come directly to the Iran and Syria point. The issue for me is not a question of being unwilling to sit down with people or not, but the basis upon which we discuss Iraq has got to be clear and it's got to be a basis where we are all standing up for the right principles, which are now endorsed in the United Nations resolutions, in respect of Iraq. In other words, you support the democratic elected government; you do not support sectarians and you do not support, arm or finance terrorists.

Now, the very reason we have problems in parts of Iraq -- and we know this very well down in the south of Iraq -- is that Iran, for example, has been doing that, has been basically arming, financing, supporting terrorism. So we've got to be clear the basis upon which we take this forward. And as I say, it's got to be clear the basis upon which we take this forward. And as I say, it's got to be on the basis of people accepting their responsibilities.


PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me talk about engaging Iran. We have made it clear to the Iranians that there is a possible change in U.S. policy, a policy that's been in place for 27 years, and that is that if they would like to engage the United States, that they've got to verifiably suspend their enrichment program. We've made our choice. Iran now has an opportunity to make its choice. I would hope they would make the choice that most of the free world wants them to make, which is there is no need to have a weapons program; there is no need to isolate your people; there's no need to continue this obstinance when it comes to your stated desires to have a nuclear weapon. It's not in your interest to do so.

And should they agree to verifiably suspend their enrichment, the United States will be at the table with our partners.

It's really interesting to talk about conversations with countries -- which is fine; I can understand why people speculate about it -- but there should be no mistake in anybody's mind, these countries understand our position. They know what's expected of them.

There is -- if we were to have a conversation, it would be this one, to Syria: Stop destabilizing the Siniora government. We believe that the Siniora government should be supported, not weakened. Stop allowing money and arms to cross your border into Iraq. Don't provide safe haven for terrorist groups. We've made that position very clear.

And the truth of the matter is, is that these countries have now got the choice to make. If they want to sit down at the table with the United States, it's easy -- just make some decisions that will lead to peace, not to conflict.

No comments: