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Christiane Amanpour: Bush's 'axis of evil' warning

(CNN) -- In his State of the Union address, President Bush identified North Korea, Iraq and Iran as part of an "axis of evil."

CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour spoke to CNN International anchor Zain Verjee about the implications of Bush's speech.

AMANPOUR: When President Bush described North Korea, Iraq and Iran as "an axis of evil," that was the sharpest and harshest language any U.S. administration has used yet to describe those countries.

In the past, they have been described as "rogue states," with accusations of them building nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction or at least pursuing that technology and indeed supporting terrorism.

There has been no reaction out of North Korea or Iraq to President Bush's speech yet.

State of the Union
  •  Speech highlights
  •  President Bush's address:
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  •  Democratic response
  •  A new vision of President Bush
  •  Manila: Bush stance 'arrogant'
  •  Iran rejects 'axis of evil' barb
  •  Transcript of Bush's address
  •  Democratic response to address
  •  What CNN pundits heard
  •  'Continuity plans' keep some out of Capitol
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But early on, the foreign minister of Iran reacted very harshly, vehemently rejecting those charges that were outlined in Mr. Bush's speech.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said, "We condemn the American accusations and think the world no longer accepts hegemony. We think Mr Bush would do better by providing proof of his allegations. He should know that the repetition of such allegations is not going to help him."

In Iran's case, it is quite complicated because the United States had expressed some appreciation and welcoming of Iran's cooperation in the early stages of this war against terrorism and indeed its help in setting out the post-Taliban government for Afghanistan.

But just recently, the United States has accused Iran of meddling and trying to destabilize that government -- the interim government in Afghanistan -- and indeed it has accused Iran of being behind that shipment of weapons that was intercepted by the Israelis, allegedly on the way to the Palestinian Authority. So there is a complicated situation going on there.

In terms of the European allies, there has long been a difference between Europe and the United States on how best to pursue the "second phase" of the war against terror.

The British prime minister's office said that the British officials and government sees Bush's speech as a very strong endorsement of the war against terror and the accomplishments so far.

The speech is consistent, they say, with President Bush and other allies saying they were going to go after terrorism in all its elements -- not just military but financially, with intelligence gathering and in other such ways.

They would not be drawn on how they felt about potential military action being brought to bear in either North Korea, Iran or Iraq.

Allies believe that it is unlikely and would be much more complicated to have military action against North Korea or Iran. The most easy and the most likely would be against Iraq.

VERJEE: Even though Iran, Iraq and North Korea were named in Mr. Bush's address, did he leave himself any wiggle room?

AMANPOUR: Yes, there is plenty of wiggle room because there is nothing actually laid out in that address in terms of a plan or a strategy or details on just what the United States would do in pursuing and neutralizing what it claims to be the threat of weapons of mass destruction and intercontinental ballistic missiles from those countries.

While it ratcheted up the rhetoric and ratcheted up the U.S. threat assessment from those countries, it did not say anything about how it would neutralize the threat it perceived.




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