Bush maintains pressure on Iran

December 06, 2007|By James Gerstenzang | James Gerstenzang,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- President Bush and his aides spent a second day trying to keep pressure on Iran, with the White House saying yesterday that the disclosure that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 would not affect conditions for opening negotiations with the Islamic republic.

As Monday's report by the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies continued to reverberate, raising doubts about the U.S. push to punish Iran, Bush consulted with top advisers on their talks with counterparts from Britain, Germany, France and Russia.

"These countries understand that the Iranian nuclear issue is a problem and continues to be a problem that must be addressed by the international community," Bush said.

The administration is seeking to maintain support for a third set of United Nations sanctions to isolate Iran economically and diplomatically until it also gives up its efforts to enrich uranium. Highly enriched uranium can be used in a nuclear weapon.

Speaking to reporters yesterday in Omaha, Neb., Bush said the National Intelligence Estimate made clear that "the Iranian government has more to explain about its nuclear intentions and past actions, especially the covert nuclear weapons program."

Bush said Iranian officials "can come clean with the international community about the scope of their nuclear activities and fully accept the long-standing offer to suspend their enrichment program and come to the table and negotiate or they can continue on a path of isolation that is not in the best interest of the Iranian people. ... The choice is up to the Iranian regime."

James Gerstenzang writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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