President George W. Bush Meets with Economic Team (Excerpts)

August 9, 2005

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Q Mr. President, on Iran. Iran is thumbing its nose at the United States and Europe by resuming their uranium conversion activities. So if Iran doesn't blink, what is the -- does the United States want to see immediate referral to the Security Council and -- for punitive sanctions? And if so, what should those sanctions look like?

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that question. First of all, as you know, we have made strong steps -- we've condemned strongly Iranians' attempt to develop any kind of program that would allow them to enrich uranium to develop a weapon. In other words, the Iranians said they were in compliance with certain international rules, and yet we found out they weren't in compliance of those rules. And so we're very deeply suspicious of their desires, and called upon our friends in Europe, what's called the EU 3 -- Germany, France and Great Britain -- to lead the diplomatic efforts to convince the Iranians to give up their nuclear ambitions.

First of all, I want to applaud the EU 3 for being strong in their -- in presenting a unified voice. Secondly, in terms of consequences if the Iranians continue to balk, we'll work with the EU 3. In other words, they're the -- they're the lead negotiators on behalf of the free world, and we will work with them in terms of what consequences there may be. And certainly, the United Nations is a potential consequence.

And I -- just as I was walking in here, I received word that the new Iranian President said he was willing to get back to the table. Now, I don't want to put words in his mouth, and you're going to have to check that out before you print that in your story, but if he did say that, I think that's a positive sign that the Iranians are getting a message that it's not just the United States that's worried about their nuclear programs, but the Europeans are serious in calling the Iranians to account and negotiating. I don't know if you've got that word, or not. That's a positive development.

But we'll work with our friends on steps forward, on ways to deal with the Iranians if they so choose to ignore the demands of the world. It is important for the Iranians to understand that America stands squarely with the EU 3, that we feel strongly the Iranians need to adhere to the agreements made in the Paris Accord, and that we will be willing to work with our partners on -- in dealing with appropriate consequences should they ignore the demands.

Q It sounds as if you're willing to give them more time to let this work out --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the man said he wanted to negotiate, and, of course -- again, we're working with the EU 3. They're the lead negotiators. In other words, our strategy has been all along to make -- to work with Germany, France and Great Britain, in terms of sending a strong signal and message to Iran. And today it looked like that the new Iranian leader has heard that message. We'll have to watch very carefully, however, because, as I repeat, they have, in the past, said they would adhere to international norm, and then were caught enriching uranium. And that's -- that's dangerous. We don't want the Iranians to have a nuclear weapon.

The positive news, Deb, is, is that the world, at least the people we deal with -- the Europeans, for example -- are very -- were knitted up in terms of the goal, and that is to prevent the Iranians from having a nuclear weapon.


Q Thank you, Mr. President. You just said you were deeply suspicious of Iran's desires. Then, my question is, why does the United States support a civilian nuclear program for Iran, but not for North Korea?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. The Iranians have expressed a desire to have a civilian nuclear program, and we've said that it is the -- it makes sense only so long as the plant is under strong international inspection regimes and the uranium used to run the power plant is provided by a country with whom we're comfortable -- with which we're comfortable, and the spent fuel is collected. In other words, there will be a strong regime -- I talked about this at the National Defense University speech, about how we can enhance the spread of nuclear power, but in a peaceful way that will assure countries that spent fuel will not be enriched for bomb-making capacities.

Secondly, the Iranians have been, we hope, straightforward in their willingness to accept this kind of international cooperation.

North Korea is in a different situation. The North Koreans have -- didn't tell the truth when it came to their enrichment programs. But what's different about it is the South Koreans have offered power. In other words, the South Koreans have said, we'll build and share power with you, which seems to me to make a good -- good sense, so long as the North Koreans give up their nuclear weapons, so long as there's full transparency, so long as there's the ability for the international community to know exactly what's going on in a potential weapons program.

The strategy is the same, by the way, in terms of dealing diplomatically with both countries. As I mentioned, the EU 3 is taking the lead -- we have a little different strategy, obviously, different players with North Korea, but nevertheless, it's the same concept: A group of nations are negotiating on behalf of the free world to let, in this case, Kim Jong-il understand that we're united in our desire to -- for you to give up any ambitions to develop a nuclear weapon, and united in our desire, by the way, to prevent you from proliferating.

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