WASHINGTON – US President George W. Bush announced that his government purposefully delayed the disclosure of information about the destruction of the Syrian nuclear facility by the IDF in September because "We were concerned that an early disclosure would increase the risk of a confrontation in the Middle East or retaliation in the Middle East."
"We wanted to advance certain policy objectives through the disclosure, one would be to the North Koreans to make it abundantly clear that we may know more about you than you think," Bush said during a White House press conference on Tuesday.
"We have an interest in sending a message to Iran, and the world for that matter, about just how destabilizing a nuclear proliferation would be in the Middle East, and that it's essential that we work together to enforce UN Security Council resolutions aimed at getting Iran to stop their enrichment programs.
President Bush during press conference. (Photo: Reuters)
"One of the things that this example shows is that these programs can exist and people don't know about them. The Syrians had a hidden program," Bush said.
Last week the White House officially announced its conclusions about North Korean involvement in Syria's nuclear program, which was not meant for peaceful purposes, according to CIA reports. US officials blamed Syria for keeping the facility under wraps, and then attempting to cover up evidence of its existence once it had been destroyed.
Syrian nuclear facility. (Photo: AFP)
The US government also released photos and a video showing the nuclear facility and the buildings surrounding it, which CIA officials considered compelling evidence as to its nuclear objectives.
The White House said it would continue to inform the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the subject as information comes up. Earlier, Bush sent a clear message to Syria, saying that ''The Syrian regime must come clean before the world regarding its illicit nuclear activities.''
He also claimed that the Syrian regime supports terror in an attempt to destabilize the region and Lebanon, adding that if Syria is interested in redeeming itself before the international community, it must cease these activities.
Syria, said Bush, is aiding Hamas and there were "rumors" that Iran is also aiding the group.
"So when you want to talk about peace being difficult in the Middle East, it's going to be difficult, but it's even made more difficult by entities like Hamas," he said.
'Hamas trying to destabilize region'
In response to questioning about former US President Jimmy Carter's visit to the Middle East, where he spoke to Hamas leaders, Bush said: "Foreign policy and peace is undermined by Hamas in the Middle East. They insist upon lobbing rockets into Israel, trying to provoke a response and trying to destabilize
the region more."
Bush, who will visit the Middle East next month, said he remains hopeful a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement can be reached by the time he leaves office in January.
"I'm still hopeful we'll get an agreement by the end of my presidency," Bush said at the Rose Garden news conference.
Bush said of his conversations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert that "the attitude is good. People do understand the importance of getting a state defined."
Reuters contributed to this report