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Bush, German Chancellor Discuss Iran

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2006 – German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Bush pushed for U.N. sanctions against Iran in a news conference today at the White House.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Bush speak with reporters at the White House during the chancellor's Jan. 13 visit. Photo by Chris Draper

(Click photo for screen-resolution image)

Bush said Iran's desire to develop a nuclear weapons program posed a "grave threat to the security of the world."

"I'm not going to prejudge what the United Nations Security Council should do. But I recognize that it's logical that a country which has rejected diplomatic entreaties be sent to the United Nations Security Council," Bush said.

The so-called "EU-3" --Britain, France and Germany -- have tried unsuccessfully to convince Iran to quit its nuclear program, and earlier this week Iran broke U.N. seals on its uranium enrichment facility.

Iran insists it only wants to enrich uranium for energy purposes.

Bush stated that Germany and the United States have an obligation to send a "common message to the Iranians that ... trying to clandestinely develop a nuclear weapon or using the guise of a civilian nuclear weapon program to get the know-how to develop a nuclear weapon is unacceptable."

Bush also pointed out that the Iranian president has openly expressed his desire to wipe Israel off the face of the map. "That's unacceptable," Bush said. "And the development of a nuclear weapon, it seems like to me, would make them a step closer to achieving that objective."

Merkel said the time has come for stronger pressure on Tehran. "What is essential, indeed crucial, is that ... the EU-3 and the United States together in a genuine consultation process ... did everything we could," she said. "Iran's refused every offer we made, even the Russian offer -- now we refer this matter back to the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency."

Russia had offered to secure Iran's spent nuclear fuel so it couldn't be reprocessed for nuclear weapons-grade plutonium. This would have allowed Iran to have nuclear energy, but not nuclear weapons.

Asked if her visit to Washington opened up a new chapter in German-American relations, shaken by disagreement over Iraq policy, Merkel mentioned several areas in which the United States and Germany have had cooperative efforts, such as in Afghanistan and the Balkans.

She also touched on common U.S.-German commercial interests. "We have, for example, competitors, such as China and other countries, who don't abide by any rule. And we would like to see the rules kept. And now we need to find a common basis, a common approach," Merkel said. Bush agreed.

"Our job now is to work together. We've got big interests. Germany is a really important country. It's right in the heart of Europe. It's vital that Germany take the lead on a lot of issues, and I look forward to working with the chancellor on common objectives," he concluded.

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