Iran and N. Korea Cautioned At Summit
Thursday, June 22, 2006
VIENNA, June 21 -- President Bush and European Union leaders jointly prodded Iran and North Korea on Wednesday to back off from controversial weapons technology. The show of governmental unity came as anti-American demonstrators rallied nearby and Bush dismissed as "absurd" the suggestion that the United States is more of a threat than the two countries he once described as part of an "axis of evil."
Bush warned Iran to speed up consideration of a package of inducements being offered if the Tehran government suspends uranium enrichment, a key step toward possible development of nuclear weapons. And he demanded that North Korea refrain from test-firing a long-range missile that intelligence agencies say has been placed on a launch pad.
"It should make people nervous when non-transparent regimes who have announced they have nuclear warheads fire missiles," Bush said. "This is not the way peaceful nations conduct their affairs."
On both issues, Bush drew a strong endorsement from Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, following a summit here among U.S. and E.U. leaders. Schuessel, whose country holds the E.U.'s revolving presidency, said Europe would back the United States if North Korea violates international rules.
Schuessel also told Iran that it should quickly accept a recent U.S.-E.U. offer, which holds out the prospect of direct talks with the United States if Iran suspends uranium enrichment.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that his country would respond to the incentive offer by mid-August. Bush told reporters here that "it shouldn't take the Iranians that long to analyze what's a reasonable deal."
In Vienna, the tone between the summit leaders was friendly, a sign of the warming relations between European governments and the Bush administration since the fallout over the Iraq war. Although protesters railed against Bush outside the walls of the Hofburg Palace, inside the president seemed relaxed as he offered a passionate defense of his foreign policy since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Several thousand Austrian police officers helped keep the peace in a city that one newspaper here described as a "fortress." Police estimated there were 15,000 demonstrators around the city.
Bush seemed most animated when a European journalist asked about a belief of many Europeans that the United States is the biggest threat to global stability.
"That's absurd," Bush replied curtly.
"We'll defend ourselves," he added, "but at the same time we're actively working with our partners to spread peace and democracy."
Bush picked up on the theme a few moments later, after an Austrian journalist raised the subject of recent opinion polls indicating that the image of America is falling around the world. The president said he had vowed after those terrorist attacks that he would "do everything to defend our people."
"For Europe, September 11th was a moment," Bush said. "For us, it was a change of thinking."