- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2008

ROME | President Bush on Tuesday threatened harsher sanctions on Iran to prevent the Islamic republic from proceeding on the “incredibly dangerous” path of acquiring nuclear weapons.

Speaking in the former Yugoslav nation of Slovenia at the start of his farewell trip to Europe, Mr. Bush dismissed talk of divisions between the hard-line U.S. stance and European plans for a new package of diplomatic and economic incentives if Iran will verifiably halt uranium enrichment.

“We’re on the same page,” he declared.

“Iran with a nuclear weapon would be incredibly dangerous for world peace,” Mr. Bush told reporters after his final U.S.-European Union summit, held in the picturesque Brdo castle nestled among rugged mountains. “Now’s the time for all of us to work together to stop them.”

Mr. Bush said bluntly that Iran “can’t be trusted with enrichment,” adding he understands Israeli talk of military action against the Islamic republic if diplomacy failed.

“You’d be a little nervous too if a leader in your neighborhood announced that he’d like to destroy you,” he said, referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s persistent predictions since 2005 that Israel will be wiped off the map.

The president stopped short of repeating the U.S. position that all options, including military action, remain open.

“A group of countries can send a clear message to the Iranians, and that is: We’re going to continue to isolate you. … we’ll find new sanctions if need be, if you continue to deny the just demands of the free world, which is to give up your enrichment program,” he said.

“Now’s the time for there to be strong diplomacy,” he said, as the EU’s foreign-policy chief, Javier Solana, arranged to travel to Tehran with a new incentives plan.

Slovenia holds the rotating presidency of the European Union until the end of June. Mr. Bush flew from Ljubljana, the Slovene capital, to Germany on Tuesday night for the second leg of his leisurely farewell tour that also takes him to Italy, the Vatican, France, Britain and Northern Ireland.

Tehran insists its nuclear program is for civilian purposes.

The United Nations Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran. Washington has pressed the EU to deny some Iranian banks access to the world financial system.

With seven months of his term left, Mr. Bush minimized past differences with Europe on a constellation of issues that include climate change.

“I think we can actually get an agreement on global climate change during my presidency,” he said.

He insisted again, however, that any international environmental accord that did not bind major emerging economies such as India and China could not work.

The half-day summit also examined unrest in Zimbabwe; the future of democracy in Lebanon; the international food crisis; efforts to revive the faltering Middle East peace process; and the change of command in Cuba.



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