Bush, E.U. Threaten New Sanctions Against Iran
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
KRANJ, Slovenia, June 10 -- President Bush and European Union leaders threatened Iran on Tuesday with new financial sanctions unless the country curbs its nuclear ambitions and opens facilities to international inspection.
After a two-hour meeting that touched on Iran and other issues including climate change and trade, Bush and his European counterparts announced in a communique that they are prepared to go beyond current United Nations sanctions to pressure Iran not to develop nuclear weapons.
The Islamic republic says its nuclear research and facilities are solely for peaceful purposes. The United States and European countries, rejecting those assertions, have worked to increase pressure on Iran, often facing resistance at the United Nations from Russia and China on the grounds this strategy could backfire.
"Now is the time for there to be strong diplomacy," Bush said after the meeting, appearing with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. "They can either face isolation, or they can have better relations with all of us," Bush said. "We'll find new sanctions if need be."
A statement from the United States and the 27-nation European Union said Iran must undertake a "full and verifiable" suspension of its uranium enrichment program and must disclose any prior weapons-related work to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded that Iran halted work on nuclear weapons several years ago. But the IAEA's inability to inspect all Iranian nuclear facilities has left doubts about Tehran's intentions as it continues to expand its uranium enrichment. Enriched uranium can be used for both nuclear energy and weapons.
The communique said the focus of any new sanctions would be Iran's financial system, "to ensure Iranian banks cannot abuse the international banking system to support proliferation and terrorism."
National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley told reporters that the United States and E.U. nations are waiting to see Iran's reaction to a new package of incentives and sanctions that will be presented by Javier Solana, the E.U.'s foreign policy head, within the next week.
If Iran rejects the package, Hadley said, foreign governments could get "much more aggressive" in enforcing existing U.N. penalties and in moving toward the types of new sanctions mentioned in Tuesday's statement.
"It is to confront the Iranian regime with a strategic choice and to urge them to make the right decision for the benefit of the Iranian people," Hadley said.
Some foreign policy and nonproliferation experts said it is not clear how far U.S. officials could push the E.U., which has often been more cautious than the United States on the Iran issue. "I'd say there's a suggestion, but not proof, that they made progress," said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Bush administration officials had indicated before the one-day summit that they did not expect to reach an accord on any of the other major issues facing the two sides.
On climate change, for example, the E.U. wants to cut its greenhouse emissions substantially during the next 12 years; the Bush administration contends that any agreement should require major developing countries such as China and India to curb their emissions as well.
Bush expressed optimism about a deal on this issue. "I think we can get an agreement on climate change in my presidency, just so you know," he said.
Among the other issues left unsettled are demands from some new members of the E.U. for visa-free travel to the United States, and a ban on poultry imports from the United States due to anti-microbe treatments that are not allowed in E.U. countries.
The summit in Slovenia began a weeklong farewell visit to Europe for Bush. After concluding his meetings here, he departed for Berlin. He is also to visit Rome, Paris, London and Belfast.
Staff writer Howard Schneider in Washington contributed to this report.