- The Washington Times - Friday, January 13, 2006

President Bush yesterday urged that Iran be hauled before the U.N. Security Council for pursuing nuclear weapons, a move that Tehran said would end its cooperation with U.N. inspectors.

“It’s logical that a country which has rejected diplomatic entreaties be sent to the United Nations Security Council,” Mr. Bush said during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“I want to remind you that the current president of Iran has announced that the destruction of Israel is an important part of their agenda,” he added. “The development of a nuclear weapon, seems like to me, would make them a step closer to achieving that objective.”

Mrs. Merkel echoed Mr. Bush’s frustrations and said she was dismayed that years of European negotiations with Tehran had failed.

“We actually did everything we could,” she said. “They refused it. Iran refused every offer we made, even the Russian offer.”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shrugged off the threat of international sanctions.

“Iran is not frightened by threats from any country and it will continue the path of production of the nuclear energy,” he said on state-run radio. “Iranian people do not allow foreigners to block their progress.”

Mr. Bush and Mrs. Merkel discussed potential strategies for ratcheting up diplomatic pressure on Iran, which alarmed the international community on Tuesday by resuming uranium enrichment.

Two days later, Germany, France and Britain announced that 21/2 years of negotiations with Tehran had reached a “dead end.” The trio urged that the matter be referred to the Security Council.

But China, a veto-wielding member of the council, balked at such a move, suggesting it would only serve to harden Iran’s intransigence.

Yesterday, Mr. Bush made clear he was trying to win over Beijing.

“We’ll reach out to the Chinese and remind them, once again, that it’s not in their interest or the world’s interest for the Iranians to develop the capacity to … build a weapon,” he said in the East Room.

Mrs. Merkel vowed to take a tougher stance going forward.

“We will certainly not be intimidated by a country such as Iran,” she said. “You are trying to lie to us, you are trying to cheat. This is something that we don’t accept.”

Her rhetoric was echoed by White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

“Because Iran has chosen to continue to behave in a manner that is based on defiance and failure to cooperate, the only alternative is really to look to the Security Council,” he said. “But the first step is to go to the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] and get a referral to the Security Council.”

Tehran threatened to end all cooperation with the IAEA, the U.N. watchdog group that has been conducting surprise inspections in Iran, in retaliation for any Security Council referral.

Hamidreza Hajbabai, a member of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, told state-run radio that the threat of sanctions “will only make Iranian people united more than before.”

He added that “Iran is not a country that the West could easily force” into acquiescence through political pressure.

Yesterday was the first time Mrs. Merkel has visited the White House since narrowly defeating former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who had a chilly relationship with Mr. Bush. Although Mrs. Merkel felt compelled to chide the president over treatment of detainees at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during yesterday’s visit, she and Mr. Bush professed a mutual desire for warmer relations.

“The first thing I did was ask everybody to leave the room, except for the chancellor,” said Mr. Bush, who spent 50 minutes in the Oval Office with only Mrs. Merkel and their translators.

“My first impressions,” he added, “were incredibly positive. She’s smart. She’s plenty capable. She’s got kind of a spirit to her that is appealing.”

Mrs. Merkel, who grew up under communism in the former East Germany, praised Mr. Bush’s father, former President George Bush, for his leadership as the Cold War ended and Germany was reunified.

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