Reuters: U.S. President George W. Bush urged European allies on Friday to unite with Washington to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
By Jeremy Pelofsky and Matt Spetalnick
PARIS (Reuters) – U.S. President George W. Bush urged European allies on Friday to unite with Washington to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Bush was in Paris as part of his European farewell tour aimed at convincing allies to tighten sanctions on Iran if it refuses to accept incentives to stop enriching uranium, which the West worries could be used for nuclear bombs.
"Instead of dwelling on our differences, we are increasingly united in our interests and ideals," Bush said at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
"For the security of Europe and for the peace of the world, we must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."
Condemned by many Europeans for the war in Iraq, Bush is seeking a diplomatic solution to a standoff with Tehran over its nuclear energy programme while also making it clear that military options remain on the table.
He was due to have dinner with French President Nicolas Sarkozy before a formal meeting on Saturday.
Around 1,000 anti-Bush demonstrators staged a peaceful protest in central Paris on Friday, waving banners denouncing the Iraq war and U.S. policy.
In Tehran, leading cleric Ayatollah Mohammed Emami-Kashani, accused Bush and the United States of "setting the whole world on fire" with his campaign about Iran.
"What Iran is doing is merely scientific and economic work. What Iran is doing has got only industrial and peaceful purposes," he said at Friday prayers broadcast on state radio.
Taking a brief break from his campaign to rally European support for sanctions against Iran, Bush held 30 minutes of private talks with Pope Benedict in the Vatican Gardens earlier.
Bush's meeting with the pope was the first time the pontiff hosted a visiting head of state elsewhere than in his private study. It was meant to repay Bush for the warm White House lawn reception the pope got in April on his 81st birthday.
Benedict's predecessor John Paul II had a led a campaign against the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, but the president and the new pontiff see eye-to-eye on many moral issues, such as abortion, gay marriage and embryonic stem cell research.
A Vatican statement said the two discussed the "defence of fundamental moral values", as well as the Middle East and a commitment to peace in the Holy Land, globalisation, and the world food crisis.
La Repubblica newspaper said not everyone in the Vatican was happy to see Benedict giving Bush special treatment. It quoted unnamed monsignors recalling that Bush did not heed the late John Paul's warnings against invading Iraq.
One Vatican official close to the pope told Reuters early on Friday: "The pope is doing this because he is a gentleman. That's the long and short of it."
To round off his tour, Bush will meet British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Sunday.
(Writing by Philip Pullella; additional reporting by Eleanor Biles in Rome, Hashem Kalantari in Tehran and Gonzalo Fuentes in Paris; Edited by Elizabeth Piper)