WASHINGTON, March 16, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush says that the United States will take preemptive military action if necessary to protect itself, "even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack."
In a 49-page national security report, Bush says, "The place of preemption in our national security strategy remains the same."
Addressing the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington today, U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, the chief author of the report, offered a spirited defense of the preemptive-strike doctrine. He clarified that "preemptive strike" is not the preferred means of dealing with Iran.
"The president is personally offended by the profound oppression and suffering in Darfur, Sudan as well as in Burma, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Iran, Belarus, and other countries."
"It is wrong to say that the preservation of the doctrine of preemption is to preserve it with Iran as the principle case," Hadley said. "That is not true. It is an element of our inventory to deal with these problems. As I said, our preference in terms of preemptive action is always diplomacy. So I think we have to recognize that preemption means acting before threats materialize and are too late to stop. And our preference [is] to do that with friends and allies and with diplomacy, but we retain obviously the right to use force as necessary."
Hadley also highlighted the countries that the United States considers the worst violators of human rights.
"The president is personally offended by the profound oppression and suffering in Darfur, Sudan as well as in Burma, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Iran, Belarus, and other countries," he said. "Oppression occurs often on a massive scale, often as a tool of government control. The perpetrators of these horrors brazenly proclaim their indifference to human rights standards."
Iran Singled Out
The report, "National Security Strategy Of The United States," was formally released today.
It sums up the Bush's administration's strategy for protecting the United States and managing U.S. relations with other countries. It is an updated version of a report Bush issued in 2002.
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, center, during a visit to Natanz nuclear facility in February (Fars)
The report identifies the Islamic Republic of Iran as the single greatest challenge the United States could face in the future.
Speaking in Sydney, Australia, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said today that Iran poses a challenge because it is seeking to have a nuclear program that would allow it to develop nuclear weapons.
Rice called Iran the "central banker of terrorism" and expressed confidence that the UN Security Council will take appropriate action on Iran.
"The Security Council has now taken up the [Iranian nuclear] issue," she said. "I am quite certain that the Security Council will find an appropriate vehicle for expressing, again, to the Iranians, the desire and indeed the demand of the international community, that Iran return to negotiations -- having suspended the activities that it began in contradiction of its requirements under the Paris agreement -- and that it's time for Iran to heed the international community's call."
Russia Critiqued For Weakening Democracy
In recent days, the United States and other permanent members of the UN Security Council have been holding several rounds of discussions on Iran's controversial nuclear program.
They are trying to formulate a warning to Iran to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities and to fully cooperate with the UN's nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Bush says in the national security report that diplomacy in halting Iran's nuclear fuel program "must succeed if confrontation is to be avoided."
Bush also describes North Korea's suspected nuclear weapons program as a "serious nuclear-proliferation challenge," and says that the North Korean regime needs to open up its political system and afford freedom to its people.
Bush has harsh words for other countries, including Syria, which he accuses of being a sponsor of terrorism and an enemy of freedom.
The report singles out Russia for "a diminishing commitment to democratic freedoms and institutions," and says that a strengthening of ties will depend on the policies – foreign and domestic -- that Moscow adopts.
(compiled from agency reports and with reporting from Washington)