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Tipp City - United States President George Bush said on Thursday he was concerned that Iran's nuclear ambitions would trigger an atomic arms race in the Middle East.
Bush expressed his concern after The New York Times reported on Sunday that the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan, among other Middle Eastern states, were seeking to develop nuclear programmes for electricity generation.
The Times said that while interest in nuclear energy was rising globally, it was unusually strong in the Middle East and that the US government and private analysts said the rush of activity appeared intended to counter the threat of a nuclear Iran.
Israel is believed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal.
"I'm very worried about a nuclear arms race in the Middle East," Bush said in answer to a question from a member of the audience at Tippecanoe High School after a speech about Iraq.
Iran says its uranium-enrichment programme is for peaceful purposes and denies trying to develop a nuclear weapon, as Washington charges. Tehran is locked in a test of wills with the United States and its allies over its program.
"Iran's a serious problem," Bush said. "This is a country we believe wants to have a nuclear weapon, and to what end? They don't need a nuclear weapon."
Bush warned that Iran was working against the fledgling democracy in Iraq.
"Iran is influential inside of Iraq. They're influential by providing advanced weaponry, they're influential by dealing with some militias, they tend to be Shi'ite militias, all aiming to create discomfort," Bush said.
Some Sunni-Muslim governments in the Middle East, like Saudi Arabia and Jordan, are concerned about "a shift in the Middle East toward Iran" and wonder whether the Shi'a government of Iraq would represent all Iraqis, Bush said.
"There are nations who are concerned about whether or not a Shi'a government in Iraq will end up being a surrogate for Iran," he said. - Reuters