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Take Ahmadinejad Seriously, Bolton Urges -- 12/15/2006

Take Ahmadinejad Seriously, Bolton Urges
By Patrick Goodenough Managing Editor
December 15, 2006

( - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must be taken seriously in his statements calling for Israel's destruction and his attempts to acquire the capability to do so, Washington's outgoing ambassador to the United Nations has urged.

"Historians often look back after huge tragedies have occurred and say, 'how is it that responsible policy-makers at the time didn't see this coming?' " John Bolton told an international symposium in New York Thursday.

In many cases, he said, people who were about to commit atrocities, and didn't hide their intentions, were dismissed by politicians and policy-makers, their statements viewed as " "the ravings of lunatics."

However, "there are times in history when people say things like, 'I'm going to do x,' and they say it repeatedly, and they're criticized for it, and they keep saying it - and then someday they actually do it."

The question now, he said, was whether the situation with Ahmadinejad was one such time.

Bolton said Ahmadinejad had repeatedly said that Israel should be wiped off the map, held conferences with names like "A world without the United States," and this week hosted a meeting in Tehran questioning whether the Holocaust took place or was exaggerated.

"He continues to make statements despite what many people in the world say about them ... and he continues to express these feelings as if completely unmoved."

One could say, and hope, that the statements are merely for domestic Iranian consumption, Bolton said, but "it's important that if we are at this stage where we're been given early warning - unambiguously - of what his intentions are, that it's time to take action."

Not only were his statements unacceptable, but "his government is seeking to acquire the capability to carry them out," he continued, in reference to Tehran's controversial nuclear program.

Iran says the program is designed for purely peaceful, power-generation purposes, while the U.S. and its allies believe the program - which Iran hid from the international community for almost two decades before it was exposed by a regime critic - is being used as a cover to develop the know-how to build atomic bombs.

Bolton said discussions were continuing - "a very difficult negotiation" - at the Security Council aimed at getting Russian and Chinese support for sanctions against Tehran

"We know that China has been a major supplier of ballistic missile technology to Iran, as has North Korea. These are connections that, along with Russian sales of high-tech weapons to Iran, they're very difficult to break.

"But it is a measure, a test of the Security Council - in a sense a test of the entire United Nations system - to see whether in the face of now almost five months of defiance ... whether the Council will enact meaningful sanctions."

He predicted that if a sanctions resolution was passed, Iran may react by withdrawing from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or expelling International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors - "neither of which makes any sense if the program's really as peaceful as they say."

This would further demonstrate that their program is not peaceful, he said.

Bolton said because of Iran's increasing influence in the region and the world, the regime feels that time is on its side, "and therefore the risks that it faces from threat of sanctions from the Security Council or other actions in the diplomatic sphere don't give it pause."

"The notion here of taking Ahmadinejad seriously, taking seriously that he means what he says and intends to have the capabilities to carry through on it, is critical in our own internal discussions in the United States about what we're going to do about it."

Entitled "Bring Ahmadinejad to Justice For Incitement to Genocide," Thursday's symposium was organized by the Conference of President of Major Jewish Organizations and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Before addressing the meeting, Bolton observed that he was "still a federal employee," and would probably have had somewhat different things to say in a fortnight's time. "But I'll get as close as I can as a federal employee."

Bolton has resigned from his post, after critics in the Senate failed to approve his nomination ahead of the expiry of an earlier recess appointment.

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