Bush, Ahmadinejad soften rhetoric over US-Iran relations

Monday, February 12th 2007, 4:13 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush on Monday sought to dampen speculation about a U.S. military strike on Iran as the Islamic republic's president softened his tone, too, and said he wanted dialogue rather than confrontation.

Bush, in an interview at the White House with C-SPAN, dismissed talk of a U.S. military strike on Iran as political chatter. He also said there is still a chance to resolve, through diplomacy, the standoff over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Still, Bush called Tehran a ``belligerent'' regime with nuclear ambitions that will lead Iranians into isolation.

``The Iranian people are good, honest, decent people and they've got a government that is belligerent, loud, noisy, threatening _ a government which is in defiance of the rest of the world and says, 'We want a nuclear weapon,''' Bush said. ``So our objective is to keep the pressure so rational folks will show up and say it's not worth the isolation.''

The United States and Iran are at odds on two fronts: the standoff over nuclear weapons and U.S. accusations that Iran is meddling in Iraq.

The U.S. claims Iran has been arming Shiites in Iraq with sophisticated, armor-piercing roadside bombs, which have killed more than 170 troops from the U.S.-led coalition. Tehran denied it gave sophisticated weapons to militants to attack U.S. forces.

In recent weeks, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, known for his inflammatory anti-Western rhetoric, has taken a milder approach to diplomacy. He insisted on Monday that turmoil in Iraq is bad for his country and that dialogue _ not force _ was the solution to the region's conflicts.

``We shy away from any kind of conflict, any kind of bloodshed,'' Ahmadinejad told ABC's ``Good Morning America.'' ``As we have said repeatedly, we think that the world problems can be solved through dialogue, through the use of logic and a sense of friendship. There is no need for the use of force.''

The change in tone comes at a time when domestic criticism of the controversial leader has increased, with both reformers and fellow conservatives complaining that Ahmadinejad spends too much time criticizing the United States and Israel, and not enough on internal issues such as Iran's struggling economy.

In a nearly half-hour interview on a range of subjects, Bush also was asked how he thinks Iraqi children will view the United States in 15 to 20 years.

``If we can help this government be able to create the conditions so that a mother can grow up _ raise their child in peace, I think people will look back and say they'd be thankful of America,'' Bush said. ``If America leaves, however, before the job is done, I think there will be great resentment toward America.''