WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush said on Saturday he would use part of a weeklong Middle East trip next week to press allies to help keep Iran’s “aggressive ambitions” in check.
Bush will travel to Israel and the Palestinian West Bank as he tries to help the two sides reach a peace agreement. But he will focus on Iran when he visits five regional allies -- Kuwait, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
The United States has accused Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian energy program, a charge Tehran has denied.
A U.S. intelligence report in December found Iran had halted its weapons program in 2003.
“I will discuss the importance of countering the aggressive ambitions of Iran,” Bush said in his weekly radio address. “And I will assure them that America’s commitment to the security of our friends in the region is strong and enduring.”
Bush said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday he would explain the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate to the allies and that he still viewed Iran as a danger.
“I will remind them that a country that can suspend a program can easily start a program,” Bush said in the interview.
The United States and other Western allies have placed economic sanctions on Iran for refusing to stop enriching and processing uranium, a key component for nuclear weapons. Instead, Tehran has insisted the fuel is for energy purposes.
Bush said the United States would “stay engaged in the region” and that he would discuss with U.S. allies how to deal with militants he said were intent on attacking the United States and other partners in the Middle East.
“I will consult closely with our partners in the war against these extremists,” Bush said. “I will reaffirm our pledge to use every necessary tool of intelligence, law enforcement, diplomacy, finance, and military power to bring our common enemies to justice.”