KING’S POINT, United States (AFP) -US President George W. Bush warned Iran of “progressively stronger political and economic sanctions” if Tehran refuses to freeze sensitive nuclear activities in return for talks.
With Iran suggesting that it will soon unveil its own proposal for ending the crisis over its atomic programs, Bush signalled here that suspending uranium enrichment and reprocessing was not negotiable.
“If Iran’s leaders want peace, and prosperity, and a more hopeful future for their people, they should accept our offer, abandon any ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons, and come into compliance with their international obligations,” Bush said in a speech to the US Merchant Marine Academy here.
The United States and its partners — Britain, France, Germany as well as Russia and China — have made Iran’s suspension of uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities a condition for talks on Tehran’s atomic program.
“The United States has offered to come to the table with our partners and meet with Iran’s representatives as soon as the Iranian regime fully and verifiably suspends its uranium enrichment and reprocessing,” said Bush.
“If Iran’s leaders reject our offer, it will result in action before the (UN) Security Council, further isolation from the world, and progressively stronger political and economic sanctions,” he said.
Iran, which denies US charges that it seeks nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian atomic program, said Monday it was preparing a counter-offer as officials rejected that key stipulation.
Bush was speaking to the graduating class at the United States Merchant Marine Academy one day before travelling to Austria for the annual US-European Union summit, where Iran was to be a central topic of discussion.
“I have a message for the Iranian regime: America and her partners are united. We have presented a reasonable offer. Iran’s leaders should see our proposal for what it is: A historic opportunity to set their country on a better course,” said the US president.
The US-backed offer, presented to Iran on June 6, involves incentives and multilateral talks if Iran agrees to temporarily halt the sensitive nuclear activity and cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Bush also said he respected Iran’s “legitimate desire” for civilian nuclear energy — as long as it comes “with proper international safeguards.”
In Tehran, state television quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as calling for “a just and equal dialogue with no preconditions” and saying that a counter-offer was in the works.
“Our experts are examining the proposal, after the examination … Iran’s views will be submitted to the other party,” he said in a meeting with Iran’s top officials and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
US officials have accused Iran of trying to divide the United States and its partners, but Bush insisted: “We’ve all agreed on a unified approach to solve this problem diplomatically.”