- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2005

President Bush yesterday criticized a vow by Iran’s president-elect to restart Tehran’s nuclear-energy program, warning it could lead to the development of a nuclear weapon.

“The development of a nuclear weapon is unacceptable,” Mr. Bush said during an Oval Office meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. “And a process which would enable Iran to develop a nuclear weapon is unacceptable.”

Mr. Bush was reacting to Iran’s Islamist President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who on Sunday promised to restart the nation’s nuclear energy program. Iran stopped enriching uranium in November to avoid U.N. sanctions.

“We will continue this,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said of the enrichment. “This is the final path we have taken.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad was elected Friday in an election that Mr. Bush derided yesterday as unfair because Iranian authorities excluded hundreds of candidates from the ballot.

“It’s never free and fair,” he said, “when a group of people — unelected people — get to decide who’s on the ballot.”

Mr. Schroeder said he “couldn’t agree more” with Mr. Bush’s stance against Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But on the way to America for yesterday’s visit, the German leader cautioned against racing into U.N. sanctions against Iran, which supplies a significant share of Europe’s oil.

Nonetheless, Mr. Schroeder said Germany would continue working with Britain and France to dissuade Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. He credited Mr. Ahmadinejad for not canceling the negotiations after winning the election.

“The new president has emphasized that he wants the talks to continue,” Mr. Schroeder said. “So here we are.”

Mr. Schroeder spent part of yesterday’s meeting urging Mr. Bush to endorse Germany’s bid to become a member of the U.N. Security Council. Mr. Bush, who has already endorsed a similar bid by Japan, was not willing to do the same for Germany, although he promised not to block Berlin’s bid.

“We oppose no country’s bid for the Security Council,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Schroeder, who might soon face a difficult re-election campaign in Germany, sounded relieved by the president’s stance, but expressed disappointment that Mr. Bush is not in as much of a hurry as Mr. Schroeder to enlarge the Security Council.

“There are differences in the timing,” he said. “We were pushing to have things happening very quickly.

“But I was very pleased indeed to hear that there was no opposition vis-a-vis Germany, as such, from the president,” he added.

Mr. Schroeder made his case to Mr. Bush by emphasizing Germany’s contributions to the democratization of Afghanistan and Iraq and the stabilization of the Balkans.

“Since we’re doing all these things internationally, we would very much hope that at some point in time we could also have a right to representation on the Security Council if there were the space,” he said. “We’re doing lots of things, so hopefully we’ll be involved in deciding things as well.”

Yesterday’s meeting was described as “intense” by Mr. Schroeder and “frank” by Mr. Bush. There are still strains between the two nations, which had something of a falling out when Germany opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

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