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U.S. President George W. Bush said Monday he would use military force to protect Israel from Iranian threats, but also restated his desire to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program diplomatically.

Bush, in a speech in Cleveland, Ohio, cited comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last year calling for Israel to be wiped off the map.

Iran's "stated objective" to destroy Israel is a "serious threat," Bush said as he marked three years since the start of the war in Iraq.

"But now that I'm on Iran, the threat to Iran, of course - the threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally Israel. That's a threat, a serious threat. It's a threat to world peace; it's a threat, in essence, to a strong alliance. I made it clear, I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel," Bush said.

Bush's comments come as the UN Security Council contemplates steps to address Iran's nuclear activities and after Iran accepted a months-old U.S. proposal for direct talks on Iraq.

The United States is concerned that the Iranians have allowed weapons into Iraq that have supported anti-U.S. insurgents and contributed to instability in the country. Iran is also believed to exercise influence on Iraq's majority Shiite population.

Bush said the purpose of any talks with Iran would be to raise U.S. concerns about developments in Iraq. His administration has ruled out negotiations over the nuclear dispute.