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US and EU to increase pressure on Iran

Latest update : 2008-06-10

Bush arrived in Germany Tuesday night ahead of talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Earlier in the day, the US and the EU agreed to increase sanctions on Iran in order to pressure it to drop its nuclear enrichment programme.

BRDO, Slovenia, June 10 (Reuters) - The United States and
the European Union told Iran on Tuesday they were ready to
impose more sanctions over its nuclear enrichment programme.

But President George W. Bush acknowledged the limits of U.S.
influence over Tehran and, in the twilight of his presidency,
appeared resigned to leaving the standoff to his successor.

"I leave behind a multilateral framework to work on this
issue," Bush said after a U.S.-EU summit at a Slovenian castle.

"A group of countries can send a clear message to the
Iranians, and that is: We're going to continue to isolate you
... we'll find new sanctions if need be, if you continue to deny
the just demands of the free world, which is to give up your
enrichment programme," he said.

He stopped short of repeating the U.S. position that all
options, including military action, remain open. "Now is the
time for there to be strong diplomacy," Bush said.

A joint communique after his final summit with the 27-nation
EU said both sides were ready to take additional measures on top
of three rounds of United Nations sanctions -- an implicit
recognition that tougher Security Council action might be
difficult due to Russian and Chinese resistance.

Bush met Slovenian leaders, who hold the EU's rotating
presidency, as well as European Commission President Jose Manuel
Barroso and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who has led
efforts to get Iran to scrap its enrichment programme.

The president later arrived in Germany where he will hold
talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Iran, climate change and
oil prices at Meseberg, north of Berlin, before heading to Rome,
France and Britain as part of a week-long European tour.


Solana is due to travel to Iran at the weekend to present a
new offer by major powers of incentives for it to suspend the
programme but he has played down prospects of a breakthrough.

"Iran with a nuclear weapon would be incredibly dangerous
for world peace," Bush said.

All agree Iran should not be allowed to acquire nuclear
weapons. Tehran insists its programme is for civilian purposes.

But it remained unclear how far the Europeans, who rarely
echo Bush's harsh rhetoric against Iran and have sometimes been
reluctant to get tougher, would be willing to go.

Washington has pressed the EU to deny some Iranian banks
access to the world financial system. European External
Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said further EU
steps could entail a freeze on Iranian bank assets.

An Iranian newspaper said Tehran was withdrawing assets from
European banks and converting some foreign exchange holdings
into gold and equities to neutralise the impact of sanctions.


Bush was accused by critics of "cowboy diplomacy" early in
his presidency, but the rancour has eased somewhat after he took
a more cooperative approach in his second term.

After clashing with former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder over
the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, he has forged a close
relationship with Merkel, a pro-American conservative who grew
up in communist East Germany.

Merkel has not shied away from criticising Bush over issues
like the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay but, like other
European leaders, she is looking increasingly past Bush to his
successor who will be chosen in the November election.

Bush acknowledges he is unpopular in Europe, as well as at
home. "A lot of people like America. They may not sometimes
necessarily like the president," he told Slovenia's Pop TV.

On climate change, EU policymakers say they have given up
trying to get Washington to join with the bloc in signing up now
to binding cuts of greenhouse gas emissions.

Bush repeated on Tuesday that the United States would not
agree to cuts until big developing nations such as China and
India made commitments too, but he said a global climate deal
could still be reached during his presidency.
 He also reaffirmed his strong dollar policy, even as the
U.S. currency traded close to a historic low against the euro.

"We believe in a strong dollar and that the relative value
of economies will end up setting the valuation of the dollar,"
Bush told a joint news conference in Slovenia.
(Writing by Matt Spetalnick, William Schomberg and Noah Barkin,
additional reporting by Marja Novak)


Date created : 2008-06-10