- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2003

President Bush yesterday warned Iran that it had better keep its promise not to develop nuclear weapons, “and if they don’t, we’ll deal with that when they don’t.”

A new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) outlines Iran’s failure to provide access for agency inspectors that the president said is unacceptable.

“Iran must comply. I mean, the free world expects Iran to comply. Just leave it at that. … We believe they will when the free world comes together,” Mr. Bush said after a White House meeting with European Union leaders.

The United States and Europe, which were at odds over how to handle Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, yesterday agreed that Iran must be confronted over its pledge to allow more open inspections of its nuclear projects. Both agree that Iran could be using their atomic energy program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons.

“America and the EU agree that Iran must cooperate fully with the IAEA,” Mr. Bush said. “We agree that Iran must sign and comply with an additional protocol giving the IAEA new tools to investigate clandestine nuclear weapons activities.

“Iran has pledged not to develop nuclear weapons, and the entire international community must hold that regime to its commitments,” he said.

At an East Room press conference, Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, said European leaders understand the threat posed by an Iran with nuclear weapons and therefore back the United States in calling on Tehran to allow IAEA inspectors free access.

“We push that they accept all the inspections, even … planned inspections because we have to be sure that doesn’t constitute a danger to future peace. We have to be absolutely sure,” Mr. Prodi said.

In Tehran, the defense minister accused the United States of pressuring Iran over its nuclear program to cover up for its failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the state news agency Islamic Republic (IRNA) reported yesterday.

“The U.S. approach to Iran is one of threats and seeking concessions, in other words forcing Iran to accept its unlawful demands,” Rear Adm. Ali Shamkhani told the agency. “The reason why the U.S. is pressuring the IAEA … is to escape from its claims on the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that it has not found.”

He said that failure has led to U.S. accusations that Iran’s clerical leadership is meddling in Iraq, helping al Qaeda fugitives and seeking a nuclear arsenal.

“Everyone knows that al Qaeda was started by the U.S., that most of its top leaders were trained by the U.S., and that they received U.S. financial and logistical support,” he said.

Holding their first meeting since the war in Iraq, Mr. Bush, Mr. Prodi and Greek Prime Minister Konstandinos Simitis, whose country holds the EU presidency, made efforts to move past ugly disagreements.

“Many people have said that Europe is too old,” said Mr. Prodi, a reference to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld calling antiwar allies part of “old Europe.” Added Mr. Prodi: “Maybe, but the old age helps us to understand our strengths and our weakness.”

With a wry smile, Mr. Bush replied, “You’re looking pretty young these days.”

Said Mr. Simitis: “The United States and the European Union cannot possibly have and share on foreign policy or trade interests in all areas the same opinions. There will be issues and times where we will differ.

“But friendship presupposes that we will have to agree to differ, to accept to differ. And friendship presupposes that we must be disciplined and manage our differences. We should always act on the basis that what unites us will always outweigh any issue that divides us,” he said.

To illustrate that point, the leaders yesterday announced a new agreement to curb funding to terrorism organizations and hasten extradition of terrorists. The pact, signed by Attorney General John Ashcroft and Greek Minister of Justice Philippos Petsalnikos, broadens the number of crimes that extradition will apply to and authorizes such things as joint investigative teams, video testimony in court cases and sharing information on suspect bank accounts.

“These treaties focus not on our differences, but on our common values,” Mr. Ashcroft said at the Justice Department.

The leaders brushed over another issue separating them — genetically modified food. A 1998 European moratorium bans the import of genetically modified foods because many European consumers fear health risks.

Mr. Bush used a trip to France earlier this month to urge Europe to change its policy, arguing that it is worsening famine in Africa by discouraging African nations from investing in biotechnology.

But the U.S.-European relationship is once again strong enough that Mr. Bush could joke about the issue with the leaders, said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.

He said the president ended yesterday’s morning meetings by telling EU leaders, “‘Let’s go eat some genetically modified food for lunch.’ He said it with a big smile and everybody laughed,” Mr. Fleischer said.

It wasn’t true, though. They dined on freshwater prawns, fruitwood-smoked Kobe beef tenderloin, pencil Asparagus and potato hash.

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