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Bush, EU threaten Iran with sanctions

KRANJ, Slovenia – 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.

Following a two-hour meeting that touched on Iran and a host of issues including climate change and trade, Bush and his European counterparts indicated they were prepared to go beyond current United Nations sanctions to try to ensure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon.

The Islamic republic insists its nuclear research and facilities are solely for peaceful purposes. But at the same time, Tehran has stymied international inspectors from verifying the extent and nature of its program.

“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 Jose 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 disclose any prior weapons-related work to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Although it is suspected that Iran halted work on nuclear weapons several years ago, the inability of the IAEA to inspect its operations has left doubts about Tehran’s intentions as it continues to expand and improve its uranium enrichment. Enriched uranium can be used for both nuclear energy and weapons.

Unless those obligations are met, the statement said that the United States and EU were prepared “to supplement” existing U.N. sanctions with “additional measures.”

The communique indicated that the focus would be on Iran’s financial system “to ensure Iranian banks cannot abuse the international banking system to support proliferation and terrorism.”

The language on Iran marks a modest accomplishment for Bush and other administration officials, who had indicated prior to Tuesday’s summit that they did not expect to reach an accord on any of the other major issues facing the transatlantic alliance.

The agenda for the one-day summit was broad and adjourned with major issues left on the table. On climate change, for example, the EU wants to cut its own greenhouse emissions substantially during the next 12 years, while the Bush administration contends that any agreement should require major developing countries such as China and India to curb their emissions as well.

Still, Bush said he felt a deal on climate change was possible in the coming months.

“I think we can get an agreement on climate change in my presidency, just so you know,” Bush said.

Among the other issues left unsettled: demands from Slovenia and other new members of the EU for visa-free travel to the United States and a dispute over a European ban on U.S. poultry.


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