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U.S.: Bush Says Diplomacy Is First Choice In Dealing With Iran


George W. Bush and Angela Merkel

George W. Bush and Angela Merkel

U.S. President George W. Bush has reiterated that diplomacy is his first choice in dealing with Iran -- but that "all options" remain on the table.

Speaking at a news conference in Germany, following talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bush said Washington was working hard with its European allies to persuade Tehran to reverse its policy of uranium enrichment.

But he said more punitive measures could follow if Iran ignored those calls.

"My first choice, of course, is to solve this diplomatically. All options are on the table," Bush said. "The first choice is to solve this problem by working together by sending a dual message, which has been a consistent policy of this administration, that if you verifiably suspend your enrichment programs, you'll end your isolation."

At a summit in Slovenia in June 10, Bush and European leaders warned Iran that they would add new measures to current United Nations sanctions if Iran does not suspend uranium-enrichment activities.

Bush also focused on the situation in Iraq. In an interview published in "The Times" newspaper of London, the U.S. president was quoted as saying he regretted the fact that some people believed he had been "anxious for war" in Iraq.

Bush was asked in Germany whether -- in retrospect -- going to war was a mistake. "You don't get to do things over in my line of work," he said. "But I could have used better rhetoric to indicate that, one, we tried -- exhausted diplomacy in Iraq; two, that I don't like war. But no, the decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision."

Bush said he expects the United States to conclude a strategic security pact with Iraq, despite the controversy the potential agreement has caused in Baghdad.

He said Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki supports the deal. And he emphasized that the United States is not seeking to build permanent military bases in Iraq

Merkel and Bush devoted a significant portion of their joint news conference to the issue of climate change.

Bush said it was crucial for large, developing nations -- especially China and India -- to be part of any successor deal to the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

"Step one of solving the problem is for nations who actually emit carbon dioxide to agree to a goal -- and that's not just European nations, that's the United States along with China and India -- and, once that goal is agreed to, then develop long-term and interim strategies that are binding strategies to meet those goals," Bush said.

Both Merkel and Bush said they hope to make progress on a deal during climate talks next month on the sidelines of the Group of Eight (G8) meeting in Japan.

Bush travels to Italy next, on the third step of his farewell European tour, for talks with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

compiled from agency reports
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