Bush: Iran Must Suspend Nuclear Program to Start Talks
By Paul X. Rutz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 1, 2006 America and its allies have laid the groundwork for "an effective international response" if Iran chooses not to suspend its uranium enrichment program, President Bush said today.
Yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, at the President's instruction, announced that the United States wants to solve the Iranian nuclear issue with diplomacy. However, after welcoming the offer to talk, Iran rejected the demand that it first suspend its nuclear program.
"The choice is theirs," Bush told reporters at the White House after a meeting with his Cabinet. "I want to solve this problem diplomatically, and I want to solve it peacefully."
Bush said he spoke with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Hu Jintao about the diplomatic approach. He reported a positive response from Putin and said of all the conversations he has had on the subject, "There is uniform agreement that the Iranians should not have a nuclear weapon."
Iran has already said it is willing to suspend the program, Bush noted. "This gives them a second chance to make their words mean something," he said.
If Iran does not choose to suspend uranium enrichment voluntarily, Bush said, the next step would be for the United States and its coalition partners to go to the U.N. Security Council. "If they continue their obstinance, if they continue to say to the world, 'We really don't care what your opinion is,' then the world is going to act in concert."
America has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since April 1980.
The president said he and his Cabinet discussed other topics, including the upcoming hurricane season and the war against terror.
As investigations continue into alleged wrongdoing by U.S. Marines on Nov. 19, 2005, in the Iraqi village of Haditha, the Defense Department is changing the way it trains both its troops and its commanders to remind them of the high standards and proud military traditions expected of them, Bush said.
"Obviously, the allegations are very troubling for me and equally troubling for our military, especially the Marine Corps," he said.
A thorough investigation, independent of the White House, is ongoing, he said.
The president has spoken with Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about the issue several times, he said.
"If there is wrongdoing, people will be held to account," he said. "The United States of America has got a willingness to deal with issues like this in an upfront way, in an open way, and correct problems. And that's what you're going to see unfold."