President Bush Participates in Joint Press Availability with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy (Excerpts)

June 12, 2008

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PRIME MINISTER BERLUSCONI: (As translated.) Good evening to all of you, and welcome to our American guests. And of course I would like to extend my warmest welcome to President Bush, who is a friend, a personal friend of mine and also a great friend of Italy. I also wish to thank him because Rome has the very great privilege of being the European capital that President Bush has visited more than any other capital in Europe, if I'm not mistaken. This is the sixth time that he's here in Rome and we are certainly delighted to have always seen that he is an ally who has always helped our country have strong relations with the United States. And I must say that this has never been the case.


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I know that you'll all have questions. You obviously are curious about what we've discussed, and that's very legitimate. We've gone over the international situation, and we've also reported some of the decisions taken by our government with regard to our presence in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Lebanon, and also our position vis-à-vis some international developments; and of course Iran is a very, very sensitive issue and is among these.

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PRESIDENT BUSH: You're right, we're good friends, and I appreciate that very much. I also have enjoyed coming to Rome. I always leave with a little extra culture -- and a little fatter. Thank you for your hospitality.

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I want to thank you very much for our discussion on Iran. We discussed how we can work effectively together to solve this issue diplomatically. I told the Prime Minister what I said yesterday in Germany, that all options are on the table, but the first choice, of course, is to convince the Iranians that they must give up their ambitions to develop the capacity to make a nuclear weapon, for the safety -- for our own safety, and for the sake of peace. And I'm confident we can continue to work together in a constructive way.

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Ready to answer some questions?

PRIME MINISTER BERLUSCONI: Thank you, yes. We've been told that we'll have two questions from our U.S. guests and two questions from Italian journalists. And I would ask the President to just go ahead and start with the American journalists.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Oh, there you are, yes.

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Q (As translated.) Two very quick questions. One for President Bush and the other for Prime Minister Berlusconi. Now, we know that you are in sound agreement, and President Bush, I think that you were recently interviewed by my newscast, and you said that you were in favor of Italy being part of the 5-plus-1 group, which is handling the Iranian crisis issue.

Now, Stephen Hadley said today that your position is that of waiting to see what might happen. Now, the White House was backing Italy's participation in the 5-plus-1 group, so an answer on that.

And Prime Minister Berlusconi, will there be changes in Italy's presence in Afghanistan and other trouble spots after your talks with President Bush this afternoon?

PRESIDENT BUSH: We discussed the P5-plus-1. And I told Silvio I'd seriously consider it. I also made it clear, however, that all of us, P5-plus-1 or not, need to be sending the same message to the Iranians, which is: Verifiably suspend your enrichment program or else you will face further sanctions and further isolation. And the sad thing about this issue is that the Iranian people are suffering. They could be doing a lot better. Their lives could be much more hopeful, except their government has made the decision to defy the demands of the free world, has made the decision to ignore the IAEA, and has continued to enrich in a way that we think is dangerous.

And so the choice is theirs to make. Foreign Minister Solana is going to see the Iranian here very shortly, and his message is one that is the one I just delivered, and it's -- I hope for the sake of the Iranian people that their government changes course. There is a better way forward.

I want to remind you something about this Iranian issue. Vladimir Putin, our mutual friend, went to the Iranians and said, you have a right to have civilian nuclear power. I have said the same thing publicly, as well. I'm a big believer in nuclear power. I think the best way to deal with climate change is the spread of nuclear power. The best way to become less dependent on foreign sources of energy is nuclear power. And I believe Iran should have civilian nuclear power; I don't believe they can be entrusted to enrich.

And therefore Vladimir Putin went and said -- and he believes that -- and he said, we'll provide the fuel for you, and we'll not only provide the fuel, we'll gather the spent fuel -- so you don't need to enrich. So the argument of the Iranian government that "we have a right to have civilian nuclear power" has been undermined by the Russian proposal.

So it will be interesting to see their decision. But what they need to hear is, is that we are firm in our resolve to prevent them from having the capacity to make a nuclear weapon.

PRIME MINISTER BERLUSCONI: And with regard to the question addressed to me, we've offered to join the other European countries, plus China, plus Russia, in order to make our contribution to the negotiations which are underway with the Iranian government. Now, our offer is based on the fact that we know Iran very well from the inside. We have some leading companies that are operating in these countries, and therefore we think that this would be very useful in helping President Bush and Vladimir Putin to pursue the strategy that they've determined for that country.

Now, we obviously need to make sure that nuclear energy is being used for only peaceful reasons. With regard to the sanctions proposed by the United Nations, we have always abided by those. And the presence of our businesses have to do with agreements and contracts, which date back several years.

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