Sun, Jun 15, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Bush, Sarkozy to discuss Iran, Syria

HARD LINE The meeting came as Tehran said it would reject a package of incentives presented by a top EU chief if it calls for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment

AFP AND AP , PARIS AND TEHRAN

US citizens living in Paris wearing a US President George W. Bush mask and a prisoner suit perform a skit during a protest against war and Bush, who is on a two-day visit, in Paris, France, on Friday.

PHOTO: EPA

US President George W. Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were to hold talks yesterday focusing on their common hard line on Iran, cooperation on Afghanistan and France’s outreach to Syria.

Bush, on a legacy-shaping farewell trip to Europe, and Sarkozy were to meet at the Elysee Palace as a top European envoy offered Tehran’s defiant leaders a new incentives package to freeze their suspect nuclear drive.

US officials say they hope Sarkozy will offer reassurances on his newly warm ties with Damascus, notably his decision to invite Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to attend France’s “Bastille Day” national day celebrations next month.

The face-to-face talks came after Sarkozy, whose pro-US stance got him the nickname “Sarkozy l’Americain,” hosted Bush for a formal dinner at the Elysee, welcoming him with a military fanfare and a warm handshake.

But US media eager for a glimpse of the French leader’s new wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, went home disappointed after the model-turned-singer welcomed US First Lady Laura Bush through a side entrance, away from the media spotlight.

The US president was also to visit a US cemetery and memorial for World War I and World War II combatants before touring the fort at Mont Valerien, west of Paris, where more than 1,000 French resistance fighters were executed by German troops.

On Friday, about 1,000 protesters took to the streets in the heart of Paris at the urging of the French extreme-left, chanting “Bush Go Home!” or “Bush murderer, Sarko accomplice!”

Bush and Sarkozy, who broadly agree that Franco-US tensions over Iraq are a thing of the past, were to reinforce their cooperation as Paris prepares to take over the EU presidency next month.

Bush called for transatlantic unity on issues like Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, climate change and Middle East peace on Friday in the keynote speech of his final trip to Europe before his successor takes over in January.

The meeting came as Iran preemptively declared that it would reject any nuclear deal offered by world powers if the plan included a demand to freeze uranium enrichment, which can be a key step towards getting nuclear weapons.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana presented Iran yesterday with a modified package of incentives to suspend uranium enrichment.

Iran’s government spokesman, Gholam Hossein Elham, immediately said Tehran would not accept the package if its Iran won’t accept the package if it asks Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.

Solana’s spokeswoman, Cristina Gallach, said Solana presented the package to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

Before leaving for Tehran on Friday, Solana said the plan — which he was presenting on behalf of the US, Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China — “aims to address Iran’s essential interests.”

“I am traveling to Tehran to present a generous and comprehensive offer. With this offer, the EU and the six countries I represent show their desire to develop a constructive and cooperative relationship with Iran in the nuclear field and in many other areas,” Solana said in a statement.

He added that the package “is designed to support Iran in developing a modern nuclear energy program.”

Asked if Iran will agree to stop sensitive nuclear work, Elham said Iran would never do so.

“If suspension is included in the package, it won’t be considered at all,” IRNA quoted Gholam Hossein Elham as saying yesterday. “The position of the Islamic Republic of Iran is clear.”

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