President Bush defends his warnings about Iran's nuclear program

by Steve Handlesman
NBC News

One day after U.S. intelligence said Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, President Bush shrugged off charges that he had exaggerated the crisis and insisted that U.S. policy won't change.

To some this looks like the Bush administration intelligence fiasco that came before the Iraq war, but that's not how the President says he sees it.

"Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous," Bush insisted.  "They had the program, they halted the program.  And the reason why it's a warning signal is that they could restart it."

Six weeks ago, Mr. Bush talked in apocalyptic terms about Iran, even warning of "World War III".

The President said he'd been given a heads up in August from Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell that big news was coming on Iranian nukes, but claimed no one told him what it was until last week.

Despite his big mistake about Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction that led to war in Iraq, there were no apologies on Iran.

"What's to say they couldn't start another covert nuclear weapons program?" the President asked reporters.

In Tehran Iranian leaders gloated.

China said it would rethink U.N. sanctions.

Democrats demanded a change of course on Iran.

"We can abandon a policy based on hype and fear," said Illinois Representative Rahm Emanuel.

Still, President Bush insists fear is  justified, and he says he'll try to convince other nations that Iran could still go nuclear.