Bush emphasizes diplomacy for Iran nuclear site
President Bush said yesterday the United States does not intend to attack Iran to crush its suspected nuclear-weapons project but added...
President Bush said yesterday the United States does not intend to attack Iran to crush its suspected nuclear-weapons project but added that "you never want a president to say never." He expressed hopes that a European diplomatic initiative would persuade Tehran to abandon any such program.
At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his nation would continue to help Iran develop nuclear power and that he was convinced the country did not intend to pursue a nuclear- arms program. Iran, a nation rich in oil and natural-gas deposits, says its nuclear program is for energy purposes only.
In interviews with European journalists at the White House, Bush was asked about an opinion poll showing that 70 percent of Germans believe the United States is planning military action against Iran.
"I hear all these rumors about military attacks, and it's just not the truth," said Bush, who leaves tomorrow for a five-day trip to Europe. "We want diplomacy to work."
" ... Listen, first of all, you never want a president to say 'never.' But military action is certainly not — it's never the president's first choice. Diplomacy is always the president's first — at least my first choice."
Bush said he supports European nations' efforts to persuade Iran to scrap its uranium-enrichment program in exchange for technological, financial and political support. However, the United States has refused to get involved in the bargaining with Iran or to make commitments, insisting that Iran first abandon its program.
"I believe diplomacy can work so long as the Iranians don't divide Europe and the United States," Bush said. "There's a lot more diplomacy to be done."
"They know what they need to do," Bush said of Iran. "And so what they are trying to do is kind of wiggle out."
Bush also said Iran should stop supporting Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon because this could threaten the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Iran is on record as firmly opposed to any peace process that might legitimatize Israel's presence as a Jewish state in the Middle East.
In Moscow yesterday, Putin's stated position contrasted sharply with the Bush administration's stance and is likely to be the subject of intense discussions next week when he and Bush meet in Slovakia.
"The latest steps by Iran have convinced us that Iran does not intend to produce nuclear arms," Putin said at a meeting in Moscow with the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Hassan Rouhani. "In this context, we will continue cooperation with Iran in all areas, including the nuclear energy field."
Russia is building an $800 million nuclear power plant in southern Iran, near the city of Bushehr. The United States has expressed concern that Iran will reprocess fuel from the plant and produce plutonium for weapons.
Rouhani said that Iran was willing to sign an agreement to return all spent fuel to Russia. Such an agreement would clear the way for the delivery of Russian nuclear fuel and allow the Bushehr plant to open next year.
Putin did not specify the "latest steps" taken by Iran.
Rouhani said Russia could play a key role in resolving the dispute over Iran's intentions, adding that "no one can doubt that Iran's nuclear program has a peaceful character."
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