Leaders back Bush on nuclear threat, terror


Mon, Nov 22, 2004 - Page 1

Asia-Pacific leaders yesterday were readying to wrap up an annual summit, falling in line behind US President George W. Bush's "war on terror" and backing his anti-nuclear drive against North Korea and Iran.

Murmurs of disquiet on the handling of the US-led anti-terrorist drive were almost drowned out at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, which all but ditched its usual agenda of trade and economics.

Weekend talks were to conclude yesterday with an informal "retreat" in the neoclassical La Moneda palace of Santiago, followed by a joint statement.

Nuclear fears injected a new scale of concern over global security. After meeting Saturday with leaders of China, Japan, South Korea and Russia, Bush said they had a joint message for North Korea: "Get rid of your nuclear weapons programs."

A senior White House aide said North Korean officials had let China know in recent weeks that Pyongyang was prepared to return to talks aimed at ending a nuclear weapons crisis, but "when, or how, or who, they did not say."

Bush meanwhile leveraged support at the summit to give Iran warning over reports that the Islamic republic has accelerated production of uranium material that could be used to make nuclear weapons.

"It's very important for the Iranian government to hear that we are concerned about their desires, and we're concerned about reports that show that prior to a certain international meeting, they're willing to speed up processing of materials that could lead to a nuclear weapon," Bush said.

Bush got support from China over the North Korean nuclear threat during a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

"Both sides expressed the hope that the issue can be solved peacefully, through dialogue," Hu told reporters after the encounter.

In a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, the US leader strayed into domestic politics and said he was worried about "overcentralization of power" in the Kremlin, a senior US official told reporters.

Washington's Asia-Pacific partners also showed some caution Saturday, warning that the US-led anti-terrorist campaign must include a resolution to the Palestinian question and involve a broader coalition.

During his meeting with Bush, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi indirectly asked Bush's second administration to make more efforts to cooperate with other countries in handling the Iraqi reconstruction and other international conflicts, according to an official who attended.

Later Saturday, Bush was involved in a different sort of tussle when he stepped into the middle of a confrontation and pulled his lead Secret Service agent away from Chilean security officials, who had blocked the agent as he followed Bush into a dinner for APEC leaders. A pushing match between Chilean and US agents ensued.

Bush noticed the fracas, walked over to the agents, reached through the dispute and pulled his agent from the scrum. The president, looking irritated, then walked away with the agent.