Bush Wants Tougher Penalties on Iran
Thursday, May 24, 2007; 7:43 PM
WASHINGTON -- President Bush said Thursday the leaders of China and Russia "have got to understand" that they and the world will suffer if Iran is allowed to join the roster of nuclear-armed nations.
The Western members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, have pushed for tough penalties against Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, which can produce fuel suitable to generate power or the weapons-grade material for nuclear warheads. But opposition from Russia and China has led the Security Council to settle for watered-down measures.
Bush said Iran's defiance means it is time to go further.
"The world has spoken and said, `You know, no nuclear weapons programs.' And yet they're constantly ignoring the demands," he told reporters during a Rose Garden news conference. "My view is that we need to strengthen our sanction regime."
Iran insists its nuclear program is only for developing energy and that giving it up would cripple Tehran's goal of becoming a world power. Iran contend the penalties are illegal because it has the right to generate nuclear power under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
The United States and its allies say Iran's enrichment is about secretly pursuing nuclear weapons.
The president said he planned to urge Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Vladimir Putin than "an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing for the world."
The Security Council punished Iran in December for refusing to suspend its enrichment and modestly increased the penalties in March after Tehran stepped up its program.
Iran responded by giving the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency less access to its nuclear facilities.
The International Atomic Energy Agency reported Wednesday that Tehran has expanded its enrichment program. The report also said for the first time that the agency's knowledge of Iran's activities was diminishing.
Experts from the five Security Council members, plus Germany, will meet within the week to consider the next steps. Iran probably will be a topic of discussion at the June 6-8 summit in Germany of the Group of Eight major industrialized nations.
Bush is likely to meet with Putin and Jintao on the sidelines of the meetings.