Joint Press Conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President George W. Bush (Excerpts)

July 13, 2006

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  • Iran

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CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (As translated.) The first and foremost, on top of the agenda is certainly 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, but that, on the other hand, Iran should have -- should know good development. So far we have not received any sort of reaction from the Iranian leadership as to how their position is on this offer.

And this is why it was only consistent that yesterday the foreign ministers decided yet again to show clearly, also through a resolution in the U.N. Security Council, that should Iran not in any way reply to this offer and accept this offer, we, unfortunately have to embark on a new course. The door has not been closed, but Iran must know that those who have submitted this offer are willing -- and this is the success of yesterday's meeting -- Russia, China, the E3, and the United States of America -- all of them together are willing to act in concert and to show this clearly through their action in the Security Council.

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We found that there is a lot that we agree on, as regards our common responsibilities, responsibilities that we see for the two of us the world over. And 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. 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. And Germany would like to give its contribution to that.

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PRESIDENT BUSH: You know, on the Iranian issue, for example, the last time that we were together we talked -- spent a lot of time on Iran, and the Chancellor was wondering whether or not the United States would ever come to the table to negotiate with the Iranians. You made that pretty clear to me that you thought it was something -- an option we ought to consider, which I did. And I made it clear to the Iranians that if they were to do what they said they would do, which is to stop enrichment in a verifiable fashion, we're more than pleased to come back to the table.

There's no question that this issue can be solved diplomatically, and there's no question that it can be solved diplomatically with Germany and the United States strategizing as how to solve it. And I want to thank the Chancellor's leadership on this issue. 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 G8, 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.

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Q: Chancellor, you spoke about charting a new course as regards a response to the Iranian conflict. What new course will that be? You talked about the results of the foreign ministers' meeting where they will appeal to the Security Council. What sort of action will there be? Again, just a resolution that only demands certain things, or is the objective a resolution that will then actually threaten sanctions of a specific nature? This question is also addressed to the President.

CHANCELLOR MERKEL: Well, essentially what we're talking about here is not a totally new process, it's just another phase. We have waited patiently whether Iran will examine this offer and in which way it will react. So far we have not had any sort of reliable reaction. And for us, the precondition for talks has always been suspension of the enrichment activities, and a precondition for talks has always been, well, we will then, under the circumstances, not react with sanctions. But through this common action, we are now making clear, because we are not receiving a reply, that there will be a concerted action and that there will be specific steps. And we're defining what steps these will be if Iran continues to let us wait with its response.

So we wanted to demonstrate yet again that the international community is willing to show resolve to pursue this strategy further in every direction. Iran has received a proposal that I think is a very substantive one, a very good one, one that is good for the development of its own country, of its own interests -- is in its own interests. But if Iran should not reply, if they think they can prevaricate in the hope of the international community being split, then this proves them wrong. And this is why I am so happy about the conclusion of that meeting of the foreign ministers.

PRESIDENT BUSH: This notion that the Iranians must understand that they can't wait us out and can't hope to split a coalition -- and so the first step is to go to the United Nations and speak with as common a voice as possible.

Your question really is, how fast should the process move along? And my attitude is, the answer to that is, it should move as fast as necessary to make it effective, which is a non-answer, admittedly. But the truth of the matter is, diplomacy takes a lot of work, and there are different interests involved here. We do share a common goal of no nuclear weapon and no program. And, by the way, we've already sanctioned Iran, so we've got a different position than others. It's easy for me to espouse sanctions, since it's already a fait accompli. But we understand other nations have got -- there's a pace to this diplomacy. And I assured the Chancellor that the United States will continue to work to make sure the process is steady as it moves forward.

The key first step is, common goal, which is no nuclear weapon or program, and united message to the Iranians. I truly think they're trying to wait us out. They think it's a matter of time before people lose their nerve, or a matter of time before different interests are able to influence the process. And I think they're going to be sorely mistaken. I think they're going to be disappointed that this coalition is a lot firmer than they think.

It is in our interests to make sure they don't have a weapon. It would be dangerous if the Iranians had a nuclear weapon. And that's a recognizable fact now. So I appreciate the Chancellor's position on this.

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Q: And on Iran, they've, so far, refused to respond. Is it now past the deadline, or do they still have more time to respond?

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PRESIDENT BUSH: The Iranian issue is -- will be taken to the U.N. Security Council. We said that we have -- to the Iranians, we said, here's your chance to move forward, and we'd like a response in a reasonable period of time. And we meant what we said. One of the important things about moving toward the Security Council, it shows that when we say something, we mean it. In order for -- to help solve these problems, you just can't say things and not mean it. And so when we spoke, we said, reasonable period of time; weeks not months -- that's what we explained to the Iranians. They evidently didn't believe us. And so now we're going to go to the Security Council, and we're united in doing that.

Q: Their deadline has passed --

PRESIDENT BUSH: Their deadline passed, right. That's why we're going to the U.N. Security Council.

Q: -- have time?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Oh, they've got plenty of time. I mean, the U.N. Security Council, they've got time to react. They've got time to make a decision. By the way, it's their choice. We've made our choice. It's the Iranian choice. And as Angela mentioned, there was an offer put on the table, a reasonable offer for them to make the choice as to the way forward.

And our choice is, look, we want to have relations with you, but you're not going to have a weapon or the capacity to make a weapon. It would be incredibly dangerous if we -- five years from now, Iran shows up with a nuclear weapon and threatens people in the neighborhood, and they're going to say, where were you? What were you doing during that period of time? And that's what we're working on.

And so time -- that's -- when we said, weeks not months, we meant it. And now we're heading to the U.N. Security Council. They can show up any time and say, wait a minute, now we'd like to go back and negotiate, now -- take a look at the interests. We're not precluding any further negotiations with the Iranians.

In order for us to come to the table, however, what they must do is verifiably show that they're not enriching, like they said they would do earlier. This is not a -- this is not a new statement by them. They agreed to this in Paris. All we're asking them to do is to honor what they said they would do in the past in a verifiable fashion.

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