Los Angeles Times: President Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown offered equally stern warnings Thursday about the potential dangers of Iran's nuclear program, and the Briton held out the prospect of extended European sanctions to block outside investment.
The Los Angeles Times
In Washington, the two leaders say Tehran can't be trusted with nuclear technology. They express near unanimity on many global issues.
By James Gerstenzang, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — President Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown offered equally stern warnings Thursday about the potential dangers of Iran's nuclear program, and the Briton held out the prospect of extended European sanctions to block outside investment.
On a day when the head of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency said Tehran was making only slow progress toward production of material suitable for nuclear weapons, Bush and Brown joined in denouncing the Iranian government.
"They have proven themselves to be untrustworthy," Bush said. Added Brown, "Iran has not told the truth to the international community about what its plans are."
Iran contends that its nuclear enrichment efforts are part of a civilian energy program, but Western powers suspect that Tehran is trying to develop an atomic bomb.
Although the two leaders lack the tested friendship Bush developed with Tony Blair, Brown's predecessor, their banter at a news conference suggested an easy relationship.
On eight occasions they invoked the "special relationship" U.S. and British leaders have cherished since the days of Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. For Brown, that relationship will be transferred to a new White House occupant next year. Partly in preparation, Brown met with Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican John McCain earlier Thursday.
During a 32-minute meeting with reporters in the sun-soaked White House Rose Garden, Bush and Brown ticked through global trouble spots. On Iraq, Afghanistan, aid for Africa, the parallel economic woes in Britain and the United States, and their joint interest in a new world trade agreement, the two expressed near unanimity of thought.
On Iran, Brown said he was working with other European leaders to extend sanctions by blocking outside investment in an Iranian liquefied natural gas operation. Doing so would signal to Tehran "that what is happening is unacceptable."
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in Berlin that Iran's effort at enriching uranium was moving slowly and that the centrifuges it had added to its nuclear fuel production facility had been older models, Reuters news agency reported. ElBaradei urged Iran not to speed up its program.
A U.S. National Intelligence Estimate last year concluded that Iran had abandoned a clandestine nuclear weapons program in 2003. Nonetheless, Bush said Thursday that if the Islamic Republic learned how to enrich uranium, the knowledge "can be used to develop a nuclear weapon."
The two leaders also announced a renewed commitment to improve healthcare in Africa, with a focus on Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique and Zambia.
Ties between Bush and Brown appeared to have survived British troop reductions in Iraq, although recent violence in Basra put the relationship to a new test.
Nonetheless, Bush answered emphatically when asked whether his relationship with Brown was a little less special than with Blair.
"False," Bush said.
And the president evinced a chummy air as he held out the prospect of dinner with his guest. "Look, if there wasn't a personal relationship, I wouldn't be inviting the man to a nice hamburger — well done, I might add," Bush said.
The actual menu was a bit different: ossetra caviar, roasted rib-eye and early spring vegetable fricassee, according to the White House menu.