Iran Nuclear NewsBush, Merkel say Iran must drop nuclear program

Bush, Merkel say Iran must drop nuclear program

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Bloomberg: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President George W. Bush said that Iran must suspend its attempts to develop nuclear weapons as a precondition for economic aid and warned that further economic sanctions are possible if Iran does not comply. July 13 (Bloomberg) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President George W. Bush said that Iran must suspend its attempts to develop nuclear weapons as a precondition for economic aid and warned that further economic sanctions are possible if Iran does not comply.

The European Union has offered Iran a package of incentives to drop its nuclear program; Tehran has yet to respond to that proposal, in spite of warnings that the matter may be referred to the United Nations Security Council. U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac both urged Iran to accept the offer.

“I truly think they are trying to wait us out” in an effort to split the coalition that includes the U.S., Russia, Germany, France and Britain, Bush said after a meeting with Merkel in Stralsund, Germany, today. “They are going to be sorely mistaken and disappointed that this coalition is a lot stronger than they think.”

Bush said that if Iran refuses the offer, the next step will be to go to the UN “and speak with as common a voice as possible.” There is “no question” that the issue can be resolved diplomatically, he said.

Merkel said the international community has received “no concrete reaction” from Iran to what she regards as “a very good offer for the development of the country and its interests.”

No Iranian Reaction

“But if Iran doesn’t react to the offer and hopes the international community can be split, then Iran will be mistaken.” Equally, “if Iran doesn’t embark” on the offer, the Tehran government must be aware “that we will tread other ways,” she said.

China and Russia agreed to support a binding UN resolution demanding that Iran suspend uranium enrichment or face economic penalties, France’s foreign minister said after a major-power meeting in Paris yesterday. The foreign ministers of the Council’s five permanent members as well as Germany and the European Union took part in the meeting.

Bush acknowledged that Iran may not meet a mid-July deadline for responding to the offer; Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Iran may wait until August 22 to formally reply.

Council Resolution

“How fast should the process move along? My attitude is, it should move as fast as necessary to make it effective,” Bush said. Even though the U.S. and its allies are now pursuing a Security Council resolution, that action doesn’t mean the U.S. is “precluding any further negotiations with the Iranians,” he said.

“They can show up any time and say, wait a minute, now we’d like to go back and negotiate,” Bush said. “In order for us to come to the table, however, what they must do is verifiably show that they’re not enriching” uranium.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today threatened to revise Iran’s cooperation with international bodies monitoring its nuclear program after the dispute was referred back to the Security Council.

“So far we have moved in compliance with the rules and regulations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but if the Iranian nation comes to the conclusion that the Europeans are not pursuing good intentions, then I warn them that the Iranian nation will revise its policies,” Ahmadinejad said at a rally in northwestern Iran, state-run Fars news agency reported.

Group of Eight

French President Jacques Chirac said that Group of Eight leaders — including Bush and Merkel — meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, July 15-17, will send Iran “a message of unity and steadfastness” in their determination to prevent Iran’s uranium enrichment program.

“I would like Iran’s leaders to accept our outstretched hand for Iran’s sake and for peace and stability worldwide,” he said in a commentary published in the French newspaper Les Echos and in newspapers in other G-8 countries including the Christian Science Monitor.

U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government buttressed the international message, saying Iran should signal it will accept the offer of nuclear technology for more openness about its program.

“Iran is making a mistake if it believes there are any divisions in the international community,” Tom Kelly, a spokesman for Blair, said at the daily government briefing in London today. “There is not any division.”

North Korea

Bush also addressed the issue of North Korea, after it last week defied international appeals and test-fired seven missiles, including a Taepodong 2 that may be able to reach Alaska. North Korea has refused China’s appeal to return to nuclear talks as Japan, the U.S., China and Russia move closer to agreeing on a United Nations resolution condemning the missile tests.

“I assured the chancellor that I am committed to the six- party talks and that the five of us in the six-party talks will work to convince North Korea to come back to the table,” said Bush. “I am hopeful that we can get some UN action on North Korea.”

Bush said he and Merkel discussed other topics, including the stalled negotiations for a world trade agreement and concern over backsliding by Russian President Vladimir Putin on democracy.

President Putin

Bush and other world leaders attending the G-8 hosted by Putin have been challenged to raise with the Russian president their concerns over his crackdowns on a free press, attempts to stifle NGOs and attempts to nationalize Russia’s energy industry.

“I think our job is to continually remind Russia that if she wants to have good relations, she ought to share common values with us,” Bush said. “I will continue to carry that message.” Still, “nobody really likes to be lectured a lot,” he added.

On trade, Merkel said it will take “movement on all sides” to save the Doha round.

“Look, these trade rounds are difficult to negotiate; we’ve all got our interests,” Bush said. “I’m optimistic we can still get something done on the Doha round. It’s going to take work, but G-8 is a good place for us to continue the dialogue, and we will.”

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