Bush says hopes to solve Iran issue diplomatically

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WASHINGTON, Sep 20 (Reuters) US President George W Bush said today that he remained hopeful of convincing Iran through diplomatic means to give up its nuclear ambitions.

Bush was speaking a day after Iran, responding to Western debate about the possibility of war over its nuclear plans, said it would use any means to defend itself and that a plan of retaliation was being drawn up if Israel struck first.

''I have consistently stated that I am hopeful we can convince the Iranian regime to give up any ambitions it has in developing a weapons program and do so peacefully,'' Bush told a White House news conference. ''We'll keep the pressure on them.'' The United States and other Western powers suspect Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists it wants nuclear technology strictly for civilian electricity generation.

Bush also voiced support for a decision by New York City officials to reject a request from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit the World Trade Center site of the September.

11 attacks.

''I would understand why they would not want somebody that's running a country that's a state sponsor of terrorism down there at the site,'' Bush said.

REUTERS GT RK2116

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