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Bush Continues Fence-Mending Tour

Bush and Schroeder stressed the need to put past differences behind them 23 February 2005 -- U.S. President George W. Bush held talks today with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in the western city of Mainz, on the latest leg of his European tour to restore warmth to trans-Atlantic relations.

After more than two hours of discussions at the historic city's Baroque palace, the two leaders held a press conference marked by a cordial atmosphere.

Among the most prominent subjects they discussed were the situations in Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects.

Bush said it's vital for Iran to hear world leaders speak with one voice, saying that its Islamic regime must not develop nuclear weapons.

"Iran must not have a nuclear weapon," Bush said. "For the sake of security and peace, they must not have a nuclear weapon and that is a goal shared by Germany, France, Great Britain, and the United States and, working together, we can get this accomplished."

Bush said diplomatic efforts to rein in Iran's nuclear efforts were only just beginning and that comparisons with Iraq were wrong. He thanked the three European powers for carrying forward the diplomatic efforts, and he criticized the Iranians.

"The party that has caused these discussions to occur in the first place are the Iranians; and the reason we are having these discussions is because they were caught enriching uranium after they had signed a treaty saying they wouldn't enrich uranium," Bush said. "So, in other words, these discussions are occurring because they had breached a contract with the international community."

Turning to Syria, the American leader said Syria should withdraw not only its military from Lebanon, but also its secret services. He added that Washington would wait to see how Syria responded to these demands before possibly seeking UN sanctions.

In the wake of the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, calls have multiplied for Syria to withdraw from Lebanon, where it has maintained troops for some 30 years. Syrian President Bashir al-Assad was quoted this week as saying he is willing to pull back Syrian forces from Lebanon "soon."

On Iraq, Bush praised Germany for its "vital contributions" in Iraq, including forgiving thousands of millions of dollars of debt and training new Iraqi security forces. Germany has refused any military involvement in Iraq, but is willing to contribute to rebuilding the country.

The president said he appreciated Schroeder's "kind words" on Iraq, the need to put past differences behind, and to focus on the well being of the Iraqi people.

On the Israeli-Arab conflict, Bush said a solution is a top priority of his administration.

"We spent a lot of time talking about the Middle East, and I assured the chancellor that this is a primary objective of my administration, is to help them move the process along," Bush said. "Peace will be achieved because the Israelis and Palestinians want peace, and our job is to help them achieve that."

On other topics, the two leaders issued a statement pledging joint action on cutting pollution to combat climate change. The communique -- which contains no new programs, funds, or binding decisions -- says the U.S. and Germany will boost work to improve energy security and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

All such moves must "support economic growth," the statement stresses. The U.S. has refused to join the Kyoto Protocol on cutting emissions in a bid to slow climate change. Germany strongly supports the Kyoto agreement.

Bush was later to visit U.S. troops based in Mainz and Wiesbaden.

Tomorrow, Bush meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Slovak capital Bratislava. Ahead of the meeting, Bush has criticized Russia for, among other things, the Kremlin’s encroachment on press freedom.

But in Moscow, Kremlin foreign policy adviser Sergei Prikhodk said Russia is aiming to develop an intensive and frank dialogue with the United States.