Sun, Feb 20, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Bush says talk of military strike on Iran `not the truth'


US President George W. Bush said on Friday that talk of a US military strike on Iran's nuclear programs was "just not the truth" but expressed growing impatience with Tehran's response to Europe-led overtures.

"The Iranians, I read the other day where they said, `we can't go forward unless this, that or the other -- unless the United States is involved,'" Bush said in Washington ahead of his fence-mending trip to Europe next week.

"The Iranians don't need any excuses," the US president said. "They just need to do what the free world has asked them to do. And it's pretty clear: Give up your weapons program."

Bush expressed strong support for diplomacy by Britain, France and Germany to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear enrichment program, but resisted calls for a bigger US role in those talks with Tehran.

Asked whether Washington would consider becoming a full, fourth partner in the talks, Bush said: "We're joined in the process" by virtue of belonging to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"We have made it clear that we agree with the objective to get rid of the weapons," he said. "And the United States is very pleased to be a party with you, in encouraging you to carry that message."

"And the goal is two things: One, state sponsored terror must end if there's going to be peace; and, secondly, to make sure that the Iranians do not have a nuclear weapon," the US president said.

European officials have said that Washington has expressed growing impatience with diplomacy towards Iran and that they hope Bush will sign on more concretely to the outreach efforts led by Berlin, London and Paris.

The US president said he would raise the issue of Iran's nuclear programs when he meets Thursday in the Slovak capital of Bratislava with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"He's got influence in that area, on that subject, and he agrees with our friends in Europe that the Iranians should not have a nuclear weapon. And that's the common goal," he said.

He did not, however, directly address Putin's assertion earlier in the day that Russia was convinced Iran had no intention of making nuclear weapons and that Moscow would continue to cooperate with Tehran on nuclear energy.

The Iran issue will be high on the agenda next week as Bush meets in Europe with EU and NATO leaders, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Britain, France and Germany have been spearheading diplomatic efforts to get Iran to abandon processes which could be used to make nuclear arms. Washington has charged that the Islamic republic seeks weapons, which Tehran denies.

"It's hard to trust a regime that doesn't trust their own people," Bush told France's TV-3 in an interview on Friday. "The Iranians ought to listen to the reformers in their country, those who believe in democracy, and give them a say in government."

Bush repeatedly refused, as a matter of principle, to rule out US military action against Iran but worked to defuse global concerns that the Islamic Republic was next on his list after Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

"I hear all these rumors about military attacks, and it's just not the truth. We want diplomacy to work," he said.

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