WASHINGTON – President Bush called Iran's ongoing nuclear enrichment program unacceptable Thursday, pledging to work with U.S. allies to toughen sanctions against the renegade regime.
Bush delivered his message during a press conference at the White House in which he said he was confident that Congress finally would send him an Iraq war spending bill he could sign.
The president warned nuclear capabilities for Iran threatens the world a day after the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency released a report that said Iran has expanded its uranium enrichment program despite U.N. demands to stop.
"In Iran, with a nuclear weapon, would be incredibly destabilizing for the world," Bush said. "It's in their interests that we work collaboratively to continue to isolate that regime."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will work with European partners, Bush said.
"The world has spoken and has said no nuclear weapons programs. Yet they're constantly ignoring the demands," Bush said.
Bush also challenged the Iraqi government to show real progress in exchange for continued American support and urged Congress to find common ground on how to deal with millions of illegal immigrants living in the United States.
"It's going to be hard work for this young government," Bush said, adding that he predicted heavy fighting to continue in the upcoming weeks and months.
Bush pushed his agenda during a press conference that comes just before a critical House vote on legislation that would fund the war in Iraq through September without a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops — despite some Democratic lawmakers' efforts.
The House plans to vote on the $120 billion legislation Thursday with the Senate set to follow. Congress will likely send the bill to Bush this weekend.
Both Democrats and Republicans are unhappy with the bill. Some Democrats want a timetable for withdrawing troops while some Republicans don't support about $10 billion of extra spending.
Bush also fielded a question about the ongoing investigations into the firings of several U.S. attorneys last year, and testimony Wednesday from Monica Goodling, a former Justice Department official who said she overstepped rules in making political consideration part of the employee hiring process.
"I've got confidence in [Attorney General Alberto Gonzales] doing the job," Bush said. He also said he was confident that an investigation being done by the Justice Department would be "exhaustive," and said, "if there has been wrong doing, it will be addressed."
Gonzales remains under fire with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle calling for his resignation over the firings.
Bush criticized Congress' multiple hearings into the matter, however, which he said is "being drug out, I suspect, for political reasons, political questions. As I mentioned the other day, it's grand political theater."
He asked Congress to "move expeditiously to finish their hearings and get onto the business of passing legislation."
Meanwhile, the Senate continues to hammer out a compromise over how to address 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States and how to secure the border. Bush supports the breakthrough compromise announced last week, but the legislation faces criticism from both sides of the aisle.
Bush said immigration reform is a complex issue and many challenges lie ahead.
“Those who are looking to find fault with this bill will always be able to find something,” Bush said. “This bipartisan bill is the best opportunity to move forward.”
The bill would tighten the borders and toughen standards for businesses hiring immigrants, in an effort to make sure the employees are legal residents. One controversial portion of the bill would create a merit-based system for future immigrants, under which officials would assign more points to those with higher skills, and prioritize employment over family ties.