Iran Nuclear NewsBush at UN to push democracy, pressure Iran

Bush at UN to push democracy, pressure Iran

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Reuters: President George W. Bush faced growing international skepticism over his policies for Iran and Iraq as he arrived in New York on Monday for a U.N. General Assembly session. By Matt Spetalnick

NEW YORK (Reuters) – President George W. Bush faced growing international skepticism over his policies for Iran and Iraq as he arrived in New York on Monday for a U.N. General Assembly session.

Bush addresses world leaders at a time when his administration is confronted by an array of foreign policy woes and at home by a Democratic challenge to wrest control of Congress from his fellow Republicans in November’s election.

His speech on Tuesday to the 192-nation General Assembly will focus on his vision for Middle East democracy, a source of doubt in many world capitals given unrelenting violence in Iraq three years after a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein.

Bush also will use his diplomatic itinerary to try to shore up opposition to Iran’s nuclear ambitions after it ignored an August 31 U.N. deadline for suspending uranium enrichment.

Washington is pressing major powers to begin work on readying sanctions against Iran if there is no progress soon.

Russia and China are hesitant to support such penalties, and French President Jacques Chirac, who holds bilateral talks with Bush on Tuesday, said on Monday he preferred a maximum effort through dialogue before considering any sanctions.

“I do not believe in solutions that do not involve dialogue, in any case a dialogue taken to its limits,” Chirac said in a radio interview.

The White House has ruled out any meeting between Bush and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who also addresses the General Assembly on Tuesday, and said there would be no lower-level contacts with the Iranian delegation.

Ahmadinejad, who has often railed against the United States, was expected to insist Iran had a right to develop nuclear technology for civilian power generation. Washington says Tehran’s program is cover for building nuclear weapons.

FOCUS ON ADVANCING DEMOCRACY

Bush’s speech was expected to highlight his democracy push in the Middle East, a strategy some of Washington’s foes in the region see as a pretext for bullying countries it opposes.

“He will have very concrete suggestions about the path forward for realizing his vision of freedom,” an administration official said.

But Bush’s comments will also be a reminder of the foreign policy challenges he faces. U.S. forces remained bogged down in Iraq, a war increasingly unpopular with the American public, and Baghdad’s nascent government is struggling for control.

Lebanon’s fragile ruling coalition, once hailed by Bush as a democratic success story, was severely weakened by the month-long Israel-Hizbollah war.

Critics say Bush’s democracy campaign backfired in the Palestinian territories, where the Islamist group Hamas won elections and is now under U.S.-led diplomatic isolation.

Bush meets Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on Tuesday. He holds talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday amid U.S. opposition to emerging guidelines for a unity government with Hamas. He was spending Monday meeting leaders of Malaysia, El Salvador, Honduras and Tanzania.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland in New York and Tabassum Zakaria in Washington)

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