President Bush and European allies on Tuesday threatened tougher sanctions to squeeze Iran's finances and derail its potential pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Bush said the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran would endanger world peace.
“They can either face isolation, or they can have better relations with all of us,” Bush said of Iran's leaders while capping his final European Union-U.S. summit.
The president and EU leaders embraced new financial sanctions against Iran unless it verifiably suspends its nuclear enrichment. They said Iran must fully disclose any nuclear weapons work and allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to verify that work.
Iran is also under fire for defying three sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions and continuing to enrich uranium — which can generate both nuclear fuel and the fissile material for the core of nuclear warheads. Iran insists that it has only civilian uses in mind for its nuclear program.
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The president flatly said Iran “can't be trusted with enrichment.”
“A group of countries can send a clear message to the Iranians,” Bush said. “And that is: we're going to continue to isolate you, we'll continue to work on sanctions, we'll find new sanctions if need be if you continue to deny the just demands of a free world.”
Speaking to reporters on the lush, sun-splashed lawn near Brdo Castle, Bush also fielded questions on economic woes at home and climate change.
Bush essentially rejected the idea of possible government intervention to prop up the value of the U.S. dollar. He said he believed in a strong-dollar policy, but that world economies will end up setting the value of the dollar.
On global warming, Bush declared, “I think we can actually get an agreement on global climate change during my presidency,” which ends Jan. 20.
He said no global warming agreement can be effective without China and India. The U.S. has been at odds with allies about whether any climate strategy should include mandatory emission reductions, among other sticking points.
The Bush administration has warned that Iran is using an array of deceptive practices to hide involvement in nuclear proliferation and terrorist activities.
It was unclear whether the freshly stated concern over Iranian banks Tuesday meant that Europeans had signed on for the kind of tough measures the U.S. favors, such as banning business with Iranian banks, or merely represented a repeat of previous calls for closer monitoring of dealings with them. Iran's central bank, also known as Bank Markazi, is involved in these deceptive acts, according to the U.S. government.
Bush warned that if Iran ends up with a nuclear weapon, “the free world is going to say why didn't we do something about it at the time? … Now's the time for there to be strong diplomacy.”
Bush flew to Berlin later Tuesday for a social dinner with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. During his weeklong stay in Europe, he also is going to Italy, France, London and Belfast.