Bush, Merkel jointly call for new sanctions on Iran
Tehran mocks effort to rein in nuclear program
MESEBERG, Germany - Increasingly tough warnings from President Bush and his European allies have done nothing to temper Iran's stance on its nuclear program, worsening the confrontation over what American officials and others suspect is a covert Iranian plan to build an atomic bomb.
In Germany for meetings with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bush emphasized again yesterday that "all options are on the table" in any response to what is suspected of being Iranian research into developing nuclear weapons. Those options would include the possibility of military force, he said.
Even as Bush won new support from the Europeans, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran responded by mocking attempts to rein in his country's nuclear program, which Iran maintains is for peaceful development of nuclear energy. Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech in Iran that the West "cannot do anything" and singled out Bush as a lame duck who had failed at every attempt to hurt Iran. "Bush's time is up, and he was not able to harm even 1 centimeter of our land," the state-run news agency, IRNA, quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.
Iran's intransigence appears to be unifying the Europeans, who remain divided over how severely to punish Iran for not complying with Security Council resolutions that demand that it stop enriching uranium or face sanctions. Iran has called the resolutions illegal and unjustified.
During meetings at Schloss Meseberg, the German government guesthouse, Merkel joined Bush in calling for more sanctions against Iran if it did not suspend uranium enrichment.
Bush won European support on Tuesday for consideration of additional sanctions, including restrictions on Iran's banks, if the government rejects an incentive package intended to persuade Iranian leaders to suspend uranium enrichment.
But Bush's remarks during an appearance with Merkel also illustrated the distance between them, as Merkel emphasized diplomacy and the need to enforce the current sanctions.
The Iranians appear to believe that, should the crisis over the nuclear program deepen, rather than supporting Bush, his European allies would probably rein him in as well as the increasingly militant Israelis, who have raised the possibility of strikes on what they suspect are Iranian nuclear facilities.
"We do not think there is a chance for a military strike," Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said yesterday at a news conference in Paris. He dismissed the threat of an Israeli attack as "not serious."
Mottaki spoke just days before Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief, is to arrive in Tehran on Saturday and present a repackaged proposal that includes incentives for Iran to stop its enrichment program, which Iran has previously rejected, put together by the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany.
Though Merkel supported Bush during his visit here, she seemed to signal that she did not advocate the kind of actions he has called on individual countries to take in addition to the UN sanctions, as the United States already does. Further measures "need to be negotiated in the Security Council of the United Nations," Merkel said. "The more countries are in on this, the more effective the impact will be on Iran."
While Bush has insisted that he has not ruled out a military response, he did not discuss the option with Merkel, the deputy national security adviser for regional affairs, Judy Ansley, told reporters flying to the president's next stop, Rome. Bush clearly stated that his "first choice, of course, is to solve this diplomatically."
Bush is on his last scheduled trip to Europe as president.
Merkel said they discussed a variety of issues, including trade, biofuels, and the Middle East. On one of Merkel's signature issues, climate change, Bush signaled that there would be room for an agreement that would include not just the United States and the European Union, but China and India.