Joint Press Conference with President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair (Excerpts)

May 25, 2006

Related Country: 

  • United Kingdom

. . .

Q Thank you, Mr. President. How close are you to an agreement on a package of incentives for Iran? And what does Iran stand to gain if it were to give up its enrichment program? And why are you ignoring these recent back-channel overtures from Iran?

PRESIDENT BUSH: We spent a great deal of time talking about the Iranian issue, and one of the goals that Tony and I had was to convince others in the world that Iran, with a nuclear weapon, would be very dangerous, and therefore, we do have a common goal. And the fundamental question is, how do you achieve that goal, obviously. We want to do it diplomatically.

Right now, we, as a matter of fact, spent a lot of time upstairs talking about how to convince the Iranians that this coalition we put together is very serious. One option, of course, is through the United Nations Security Council. And we strategized about how do we convince other partners that the Security Council is the way to go if the Iranians won't suspend like the EU3 has asked them to do. The Iranians walked away from the table. They're the ones who made the decision, and the choice is theirs. Now, if they would like to see an enhanced package, the first thing they've got to do is suspend their operations, for the good of the world. It's incredibly dangerous to think of an Iran with a nuclear weapon.

And therefore, Steve, to answer your questions, of course, we'll look at all options, but it's their choice right now. They're the folks who walked away from the table. They're the ones who said that, your demands don't mean anything to us.

Now, in terms of -- you said back channels --

Q Back-channel overtures.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I read the letter of the President and I thought it was interesting. It was, like, 16 or 17 single-spaced typed pages of -- but he didn't address the issue of whether or not they're going to continue to press for a nuclear weapon. That's the issue at hand.

And so it's -- we have no beef with the Iranian people. As a matter of fact, the United States respects the culture and history of Iran, and we want there to be an Iran that's confident, and an Iran that answers to the needs of the -- we want women in Iran to be free. At the same time, we're going to continue to work with a government that is intransigent, that won't budge. And so we've got to continue to work to convince them that we're serious; that if they want to be isolated from the world, we will work to achieve that.

Q Should this enhanced package include a light-water reactor and a security guarantee?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Steve, you're responding to press speculation. I've just explained to you that the Iranians walked away from the table, and that I think we ought to be continuing to work on ways to make it clear to them that they will be isolated. And one way to do that is to continue to work together through the United Nations Security -- if they suspend and have the IAEA in there making sure that the suspension is real, then, of course, we'll talk about ways forward, incentives.

Q Prime Minister, you've both talked a little about the U.N. I know that you believe the U.N. needs vigorous leadership and you're going to pick up on these themes in your speech tomorrow. Is that a job application? And, if not --

PRESIDENT BUSH: Wait a minute. (Laughter.)

Q -- do you both have a sense -- do you have someone in mind? And, if not, how are you going to get the reform at the U.N. you want to see?

PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: No, no and I'm not sure -- (laughter) -- is the answer to those ones. Look, what we want to do is to make sure the U.N. is an effective instrument of multilateral action. That's what everyone wants to see. And the fact is there are multiple problems in the world; they require the international community to respond on a collective basis -- but you've got to have an effective set of multilateral institutions to do that. And that's true whether you're tackling global poverty or trying to resolve disputes or, indeed, when you're dealing with issues like Iran.

The whole point about the international community today is that these problems are urgent, they need to be tackled. If they're not tackled the consequences are very quickly felt around the world, and you've got to have institutions that are capable of taking them on and tackling them and getting action taken.

Now, we were just talking about Iran a moment ago. I mean, we want to have this resolved through the process of the multilateral institutions. There's a way we can do this. I mean, after all, we are the ones saying the Atomic Energy Authority, their duties and obligations they lay upon Iran should be adhered to. And we've got absolutely no quarrel with the Iranian people. The Iranian people are a great people; Iran is a great country. But it needs a government that is going to recognize that part of being a great country is to be in line with your international obligations, and to cease supporting those people in different parts of the world who want, by terrorism and violence, to disrupt the process of democracy.

So I think that our position with Iran is a very reasonable one, and we want to see how we can make progress and help them to do the things that we believe that they should do, but they must understand that the will of the international community is sure and is clear, and that is that the obligations that are upon them have got to be adhered to.

. . .