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President Bush played down an Israeli Cabinet minister’s threat to bomb Iran.

Remarks by the U.S. leader were published Wednesday, a day after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert instructed Israeli officials to avoid making public threats against Iran.

In an interview with Britain’s Times newspaper, Bush outlined his efforts to step up sanctions designed to deny Iran the technologies and material it would need to build nuclear weapons.

Asked about a prediction last week by Israeli Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz that Israel will have to attack Iran as the U.S.-led diplomatic pressure appears to be failing, Bush was circumspect.

“We ought to work together, keep focused,” the president said. “His comments really should be viewed as the need to continue to keep pressuring Iran.”

Bush said his successor, whether John McCain or Barack Obama, will continue Washington’s policy against Iran.

“They can either face isolation,” Bush said of Iran, “or they can have better relations with all of us.”

Olmert told his Cabinet Tuesday that government officials should “refrain from discussing sensitive matters publicly” — an allusion to Iran’s nuclear program, political sources said.

Another Cabinet member, Minister without Portfolio Ami Ayalon, came out fiercely against Mofaz, whom many commentators believe rattled his saber as part of preparations to challenge Olmert for leadership of Israel’s Kadima Party.

“This is inappropriate, unethical politics, which I believe harms the State of Israel and its fundamental interests,” Ayalon told Army Radio.

“It is best to speak about this as little as possible,” he said, referring to Iran. “If something has to be done, then we’ll do it.”

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