- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 24, 2005

MAINZ, Germany — President Bush yesterday rejected German calls to give Iran incentives for abandoning its nuclear-weapons program, insisting that Tehran needs to be held accountable for pursuing such weapons.

“They were caught enriching uranium after they had signed a treaty saying they wouldn’t enrich uranium,” Mr. Bush said in a joint press conference with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

“They have breached a contract with the international community,” he added. “They’re the party that needs to be held to account, not any of us.”

The president was responding to a reporter who pointed out that Mr. Schroeder has argued Iran will give up its nuclear ambitions only after securing economic and security concessions from the West. Germany, France and Britain are negotiating with Tehran and favor granting concessions.

“There needs to be movement on both sides,” Mr. Schroeder said as he stood next to the president in the Electoral Palace.

But Mr. Bush insisted the onus is on Iran, not the “interlocutors” of Western Europe, to resolve the problem.

“Let me just make this very clear: The party that has caused these discussions to occur in the first place are the Iranians,” Mr. Bush said.

The president rejected calls for the United States to join Germany, France and Britain in directly negotiating with Tehran.

“The president made clear we support the three-party talks,” said National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley. “These are talks that need to head to a solution, and that solution needs to involve the permanent cessation of enrichment and forswearing of reprocessing.”

Mr. Bush said he and the European leaders have discussed “a series of negotiating tactics” aimed at ending Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

“As we go down the road, we look forward to discussing ways to talk with the three interlocutors, without yielding at all on the universal demand that [the Iranian government] must give up their weapons in a transparent way,” he said, adding that he and the European leaders “discussed tactics, some of which have bubbled up, obviously, into the public domain.”

For example, on Tuesday, when Mr. Bush and Mr. Schroeder were in Brussels, the German leader suggested letting Iran join the World Trade Organization if it forgoes nuclear weapons. The United States opposes such a move.

“It would also be worth considering holding out economic offers,” Mr. Schroeder said in Brussels. “Against this background, there are good prospects of success.”

That conciliatory tone was not adopted yesterday by Mr. Bush, who issued what he called “another demand” on Tehran; namely, “that the Iranian government listen to the hopes and aspirations of the Iranian people.”

He added: “We believe that the voice of the people ought to be determining policy, because we believe in democracy and freedom.”

Despite Mr. Bush’s tough stance on Iran during yesterday’s press conference, he took a wait-and-see approach to the issue of concessions during a private meeting beforehand with Mr. Schroeder, Mr. Hadley said.

“A lot of ideas were presented,” he said. “But I think he wants to go back and think about it and talk to his national-security team, not all of which was here.”

Mr. Hadley said the leaders held “discussions about, should there be a mix of carrots and sticks, and who should the carrots come from and what should they be.”

He added: “I think there’s a kind of stereotype out there that if you want carrots, you go to the Europeans; if you want sticks, you go to the Americans.”

Mr. Bush and Mr. Schroeder tried to downplay their disagreements over tactics against Tehran by emphasizing their agreement on the ultimate goal: a nuclear-free Iran.

“We have agreed that we are not going to constantly emphasize where we’re not agreeing, but we want to focus on where we do agree,” said Mr. Schroeder, drawing laughter.

Turning to Syria, both leaders reiterated their calls for Damascus to pull its troops out of Lebanon.

“Syria must withdraw not only the troops, but its secret services from Lebanon,” Mr. Bush said. “Those [Lebanese] elections that are coming up need to be free, without any Syrian influence.”

The president, who last year endorsed a U.N. resolution demanding an end to Syria’s occupation of Lebanon, said it was too early to determine whether Syria should be brought before the world body again.

“The charge is out there for the Syrian government to hear loud and clear,” he said. “And we will see how they respond before there’s any further discussions about going back to the United Nations.”

Mr. Bush’s efforts to clamp down on Syria and Iran have been complicated by Russia, which is providing nuclear technology to Tehran and is contemplating the sale of anti-aircraft missiles to Damascus. Mr. Bush is expected to broach these issues, as well as Moscow’s recent crackdown on democracy within Russia, during a summit today with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Slovakia.

“There’s a lot of focus on my meeting with Vladimir Putin tomorrow,” Mr. Bush said during a round-table discussion with young German professionals.

“I expressed some concerns at the European Union yesterday about some of the decisions, such as freedom of the press, that our mutual friend has made,” he added. “And I look forward to talking to him about his decision-making process.”

After the press conference, Mr. Bush traveled to Wiesbaden, Germany, to visit the U.S. Army’s 1st Armored Division.

“You moved into Iraq in April of 2003, and you stayed for 15 months,” he told the cheering troops. “You waged an innovative, disciplined campaign, and because of your skill and sacrifice, Iraq is sovereign and Iraq is free.”

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