As Bush Heads to Mideast, Renewed Questions on Iran

[Washington Post] Michael Abramowitz and Ellen Knickmeyer - President Bush intends to use his first extended tour of the Middle East to rally support for international pressure against Iran, even as a recent U.S. intelligence report playing down Tehran's nuclear ambitions has left Israeli and Arab leaders rethinking their own approach toward Iran and questioning Washington's resolve. Bush is to leave Tuesday for Israel, where he hopes to jump-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations he launched in Annapolis late last year. But in Jerusalem and some of the Arab countries Bush plans to visit, Iran's growing regional influence looms larger than the peace process or the Iraq war. Administration officials insist that the National Intelligence Estimate showed Iran remains capable of, and interested in, developing a nuclear weapon. But Israel saw the report as a sign that Washington is flagging in its zeal to confront Iran. One senior administration official said many Middle Eastern governments were "confused" by the NIE. "No Arab regime understands why the United States would publish an intelligence estimate."

2008-01-07 01:00:00

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