Iran Nuclear NewsBush, Sarkozy seek united front against Iran

Bush, Sarkozy seek united front against Iran


ImageReuters: U.S. President George W. Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned on Saturday that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a threat to peace, as they sought to end tension over Iraq and forge a common front against Iran.

By Matt Spetalnick and Jeremy Pelofsky

ImagePARIS (Reuters) – U.S. President George W. Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned on Saturday that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a threat to peace, as they sought to end tension over Iraq and forge a common front against Iran.

As part of Bush's farewell tour of Europe, the leaders sat down to coordinate strategy for increasing international pressure on Iran over its nuclear program and for shoring up assistance for war-battered Afghanistan.

Iran ruled out any suspension of uranium enrichment on Saturday after the European Union's top diplomat, Javier Solana, delivered a package of economic incentives from world powers to persuade it to stop such work.

"I am disappointed that the Iranian leaders rejected this generous offer out of hand," Bush told a joint news conference with Sarkozy. He said European leaders understood that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a "major blow to world peace."

Sarkozy agreed, saying: "Iran obtaining the atom bomb is unacceptable." He called for a "flawless sanctions procedure" if Tehran remains defiant.

Bush and allies he has met during his trip have warned Tehran of further sanctions if it continues to develop nuclear know-how that could be used in bomb-building. Iran insists its program is strictly for electricity generation.

Bush's warm personal bond with Sarkozy stands in marked contrast to the chilly relationship the U.S. leader had with his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, a staunch critic of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

But Bush remains deeply unpopular in France, with many people indifferent to his visit and looking to his successor who will be elected in November.


Bush met Sarkozy, a fellow conservative, at the Elysee Palace after a welcoming ceremony on the steps outside. Afterward, Bush hailed Sarkozy as a "consistent friend".

Sarkozy dwelt on historically "privileged" U.S.-French relations and he also made clear that France would not flinch from expressing occasional disagreements with its U.S. ally.

Sarkozy won favor in Washington especially for taking a harder line against Iran than Chirac's former government.

At the news conference, Bush thanked Sarkozy for sponsoring a donors' conference that yielded $20 billion for rebuilding Afghanistan, where U.S., NATO and Afghan forces are fighting a resurgent Taliban.

Turning to the Middle East, Bush warned Syria to "stop fooling around" with Iran to destabilize Lebanon through their backing for Hezbollah. He said an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal was possible by the end of the year.

Sarkozy, considered France's most pro-American president in decades, received a warm welcome on his first official visit to Washington in November. Returning the favor, Sarkozy hosted Bush at a private dinner at the palace on Friday.

Since taking office last year, Sarkozy has done much to roll back the legacy of French-U.S. relations left by Chirac.

France, like the rest of Europe, is already looking beyond Bush to a new administration under Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain.

A commentary in the Le Monde newspaper by the foreign ministers of France, Spain and Portugal said the end of the Bush era would provide a "historic opportunity" to forge a new U.S.-European partnership "on equal footing."

Allies bristled at what they saw as "cowboy diplomacy" in Bush's first term, but they have seen improved cooperation recently as he seeks to salvage his foreign policy record.

Bush's final public event in Paris was a wreath-laying at a cemetery where U.S. soldiers from both world wars are buried. He will head to Britain on Monday to see Queen Elizabeth and hold talks with Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

(Writing by Matt Spetalnick, additional reporting by Francois Murphy and Tim Hepher)

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