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Bush seeks unity on Iran, North Korea

Presses leaders at summit in Chile

SANTIAGO, Chile -- President Bush used his first trip abroad since reelection to press allies yesterday for help in hemming in the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran, nations he considers part of an ''axis of evil."

In meetings with the leaders of Japan, South Korea, China, Russia, Indonesia, and Canada, Bush sought help in isolating Iran and bringing North Korea into disarmament talks. He also asked for cooperation in rebuilding Iraq and tried to calm concerns about the weakening US dollar.

Later, in a speech to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, Bush challenged North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il. ''I can report to you today," he said, ''having visited with the other nations involved in that collaborative effort, that the will is strong, that the effort is united and the message is clear to Mr. Kim Jong Il: Get rid of your nuclear weapons programs."

Disarming North Korea and Iran, along with quelling the insurgency in Iraq, are likely to be defining foreign policy matters in Bush's second term. His lobbying of allies suggests he will seek international cooperation instead of the unilateral approach he took to waging war in Iraq.

A senior administration official briefing the US news media said the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, told Bush that North Korea is likely to resume negotiations over the future of its nuclear programs now that Bush has won reelection. Administration officials were pleased.

''All of the countries speaking with one voice makes it clear to North Korea that the best path for them and their future is to give up nuclear weapons," the official said. ''The [presidential] election result means that North Korea's strategy to run out the clock doesn't work anymore."

Iran was the focus of much of Bush's meeting with Russian president, Vladimir Putin, whose country has helped Iran with its nuclear energy program, which US officials contend is a front for an ambitious effort to produce nuclear weapons

''This is a serious matter," Bush told reporters. ''The world knows it is a serious matter, and we're working together to solve this matter."

North Korea is believed to have produced between two and six nuclear warheads in the last year. After three rounds of inconclusive meetings, North Korea abandoned the disarmament talks in June. Bush has insisted that North Korea negotiate with all five countries about the future of its weapons programs, while Pyongyang sought bilateral talks with Washington.

This month Japan sent a high-level delegation to North Korea to explore ways to get the nation back into nuclear disarmament discussions.

A senior Japanese official, speaking on condition his name not be used, said North Korea's response was, ''It depends on the United States."

Iran has agreed, in a deal with European diplomats, to halt its uranium enrichment programs this coming Monday.

But Secretary of State Colin Powell sounded skeptical yesterday, pointing out Iran backed out of an earlier agreement with the Europeans to halt uranium enrichment for nuclear arms.

''I hope that Iran will comply with this one," he said.

Powell said he would not prejudge the outcome of the negotiations between Iran, the Europeans, and the International Atomic Energy Agency. But he said Washington is glad, after four years of warning about the issue, that ''Iran is now being held to account for its actions."

Bush also tried to talk up the slumping US dollar. The weak dollar helps US exports, but hurts nations that depend on their own exports to the world's largest economy.

After hearing concerns from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan, Bush told reporters, ''My nation is committed to a strong dollar." He also said he would work with Congress to reduce short-term and long-term budget deficits.

Koizumi responded that ''a strong dollar has a good impact on the US economy and is also important for the world economy."

On Friday, the dollar fell to a near record low against the euro, the currency of the European Union, and to a four-year low against the Japanese yen. The dollar skidded after Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan warned bankers in Berlin that the dollar could weaken even more because of mounting US debt.

The current account deficit -- a measure of all trade, investment, tourism, and services -- is nearing $600 billion. With a deficit, the US Treasury relies on private investment, much of it foreign, to close the gap. At the APEC meeting, Bush said he would work with Congress to reduce the deficit.

Later in the day, Bush pulled a Secret Service bodyguard away from Chilean security officers after they stopped him from accompanying the president at a dinner. Chilean security stopped several agents, and a pushing and shoving match ensued as Bush was entering the Mapocho Station cultural center for an official dinner.

Material from Reuters was used in this report.

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