New York Times: President Bush and Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain expressed mounting impatience Thursday with Iran for proceeding with its nuclear enrichment work in defiance of the international community.
The New York Times
By BRIAN KNOWLTON and JOHN M. BRODER
Published: April 18, 2008
WASHINGTON — President Bush and Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain expressed mounting impatience Thursday with Iran for proceeding with its nuclear enrichment work in defiance of the international community.
Earlier, the prime minister met with the three presidential candidates, but he smilingly side-stepped a question about which he might feel more affinity for.
While Tehran argues that its nuclear program is purely for civilian purposes, Mr. Bush told reporters that it “is, in my judgment, naïve” to think that the know-how that Iranians are developing could not be transferred to military efforts to produce an atomic weapon.
Iranian leaders, he said, standing beside the prime minister with American flags and Union Jacks resplendent in the background, had proved themselves “untrustworthy.”
Mr. Brown, who said he would be talking to other European leaders about further tightening economic sanctions against Iran, said, "I make no apology" for doing so, as long as Tehran defies United Nations demands that it halt its enrichment program.
The president and prime minister also said they were working together to help alleviate a building global food crisis that has produced food riots in several countries. On other topics, from Darfur to trade, the two leaders stood shoulder to shoulder.
During a brief news conference that plowed little new ground but underscored yet again the closeness of the U.S.-British “special relationship,” reporters essayed a few questions that seemed almost guaranteed to be shrugged off: A British journalist asked Mr. Bush whether his relationship to Mr. Brown’s predecessor, Tony Brown, had not been closer (“False,” the president shot back, “we’ve got a great relationship”).
And Mr. Brown politely sidestepped another such question — on whether he had struck up a special rapport with any of the three candidates to be the next president.
Before he could speak, Mr. Bush, who seemed amused by the question, interjected: "One of those three has a good chance of winning!” The prime minister then said that “it is for Americans to decide who their next president is going to be,” adding that he had been “delighted” to meet Senators John McCain, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama during back-to-back interviews earlier at the British ambassador’s residence.
No matter who replaces President Bush, Mr. Brown added, the relationship between the United States and Britain will remain “strong and steadfast.”
Earlier, the candidates’ aides offered only bare-bones descriptions of their meetings, which took place without staff members present.
Mr. Obama, was the first to arrive and the only one of the three not to have met previously with Mr. Brown, said in a statement released later: "Prime Minister Brown and I discussed our commitment to strengthen the historic transatlantic alliance, and to confront common challenges like the ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the instability in the global economy and the need to support democracy and prosperity in Africa. The Prime Minister has been a critically important partner for the United States and I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead.”
A Clinton aide noted that the two leaders knew each other previously and had a “good meeting” that covered Iraq, Afghanistan, China, global climate change, and the international economy. The aide, speaking on grounds of anonymity, described both politicians as “wonky people,” saying they spoke until just minutes before Senator McCain arrived, ignoring assistants’ efforts to wind up the session sooner.
Melissa Shuffield, the Senate spokeswoman for Senator McCain, noted that he and Mr. Brown had talked at length last month in London during the senator’s trip to Europe and the Middle East. “They touched more on those topics this time around — the importance of the special relationship, climate change,” as well as Iran and the events in southern Iraq.
Ms. Shuffield said they had also discussed the senator’s idea of a League of Democracies — an organization that would supplement the United Nations and promote a more cooperative U.S. foreign policy.
The White House endorsed the meetings. "We think it’s probably a wise move by the prime minister to get to know one of the individuals who will be elected president a year from now," said Tony Fratto, a presidential spokesman. "It makes sense."
The president had underscored the durability of the relationship, saying, “Our relationship is very special, and it’s — I’m confident future presidents will keep it that way.”
David Stout contributed reporting.