- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 13, 2006

STRALSUND, Germany — President Bush said yesterday that Iran’s “deadline passed” on responding to a coalition of countries that are demanding the nation give up its nuclear ambitions and said the matter is now fully in the hands of the U.N. Security Council.

Meeting with a new ally in this town on the Baltic Sea, the president said Iranian leaders did not meet the deadline of “weeks, not months” set in May because “they evidently didn’t believe us.”

“Their deadline passed, right. That’s why we’re going to the U.N. Security Council,” Mr. Bush said in a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mrs. Merkel was elected in November and took over from Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who vehemently opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq and ran for re-election on an anti-American theme.

Yesterday, Mrs. Merkel strongly supported Mr. Bush’s stance on Iran.

“The international community actually submitted a very substantial, very fundamental offer to Iran, starting from the firm view that Iran should not be in possession of a nuclear weapon,” she said.

Iran’s president responded later yesterday by saying the nation would not abandon its right to nuclear technology.

“Our answer … is clear, the Iranian nation abides by international laws and regulations but will not abandon its obvious right to obtain nuclear technology,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by state TV.

“We are trying to investigate the proposed package positively,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said, adding that Iran would give its final reply by Aug. 22 despite pressure for a swifter response.

Both Mr. Bush and Mrs. Merkel urged world leaders — especially Russian President Vladimir Putin — to unite to oppose Iran’s stated plan to develop nuclear weapons and technology.

“It’s really important for Europe to speak with one common voice. And it’s important for Angela and myself to work with Vladimir Putin, which we will do at the G-8 [summit], to continue to encourage him to join us in saying to the Iranians loud and clear: We’re not kidding, it’s a serious issue, the world is united in insisting that you not have a nuclear weapons program,” he said.

The two leaders, who will attend the Group of Eight summit that opens today in St. Petersburg, had some stern words for Mr. Putin, who along with China has opposed sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

“I, for one, think that as regards, for example, Iran, this responsibility ought to be shouldered by more and more countries — that goes for Russia, that goes for China,” Mrs. Merkel said. “It will only be if we act in concert that we will be able to vanquish the tyrants, remove dictatorships and contain those who sponsor terrorism.”

Mr. Bush, for his part, said, “nobody really likes to be lectured a lot,” but he will again privately urge Mr. Putin to move his nation toward a more open democracy.

“I’ve expressed my opinion to President Putin. You might remember my visit with him in Slovakia where I was quite pointed in my concerns about whether or not there is a free and vibrant press in Russia. We share concerns about the ability for people to go to the town square and express their opinions, and whether or not dissent is tolerated, whether or not there’s active political opposition,” Mr. Bush said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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