New York Times: President Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel kept up their tough talk on Iran on Monday, warning it once again to drop its nuclear ambitions, even as Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain suggested that Tehran could take a role in stabilizing Iraq under a new partnership. The New York Times
By JIM RUTENBERG
Published: November 14, 2006
WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 President Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel kept up their tough talk on Iran on Monday, warning it once again to drop its nuclear ambitions, even as Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain suggested that Tehran could take a role in stabilizing Iraq under a new partnership.
Officials in Israel have expressed increasing fear that Mr. Bush will reduce the pressure on Iran to cease its nuclear program as calls increase from European allies and at home to seek Tehrans help in Iraq.
But Mr. Bush, speaking after his meeting with the Israeli leader, said his position on talks with Iran had not changed. If the Iranians want to have a dialogue with us, we have shown them a way forward, he said, and that is for them to verify verifiably suspend their enrichment activities.
In comments to reporters, Mr. Olmert warned that Iran posed a threat not just to Israel, but to the world. A spokeswoman said later that was his main message to President Bush during their nearly hour-long Oval Office meeting on Monday, though State Department officials said Mr. Bush needed no such reminders.
The fact that the leader of a nation such as Iran can threaten the very existence of another nation, as he does towards Israel, Mr. Olmert said of the Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is not something that we can tolerate or would ever tolerate.
Iranian media on Monday quoted Mr. Ahmadinejad saying of Israel, We will soon witness its disappearance and destruction.
Mr. Blair spoke in a foreign policy address in Britain about the same time that Mr. Bush and Mr. Olmert met, first in the Oval Office and then for a working lunch that included some of their top aides. It was the second White House meeting between the leaders since Mr. Olmert became prime minister, and their first since Israels unsuccessful campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon this summer.
Though Mr. Blairs stance on Iran, telegraphed in the British press beforehand, hovered over the talks in Washington, American officials were careful to note that Mr. Blair had made tough demands, including an insistence that Iran would have to change its behavior drastically to become a negotiating partner.
Both Mr. Bush and Mr. Olmert entered the talks in weakened political positions: Mr. Olmerts popularity has dipped significantly since the 34-day war with Hezbollah; Mr. Bush lost his governing Congressional majority just one week ago.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Olmert also warned Syria against interfering in Lebanon, where Hezbollah has provoked a political crisis by seeking more power in the government. But the two leaders seemed more open than they have been recently concerning possibly closer relations with Syria, with Mr. Olmert saying, I hope that one day the conditions for contacts between them and us will be created.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Olmert, Miri Eisin, said Mr. Olmert and Mr. Bush discussed everything from the American elections to the Israeli economy. But Ms. Eisin said that the Iranian issue was the main issue on the table and that Mr. Olmert was comforted by Mr. Bushs tone.
Ms. Eisin said Mr. Bush and Mr. Olmert also discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, though that process is in limbo as Hamas and the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, seek to form a unity government in the hopes of ending the Palestinians international isolation. Israel, the European Union and the United States all cut off money to the Palestinian Authority after Hamas came to power.