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U.S. Talks with Iran Hinge on End of Nuclear Enrichment Program

President Bush warns Iranian leaders about dangers of international isolation

Washington -- The administration is willing to have discussions with Iran on Iraq and other issues but any talks must be preceded by the verifiable suspension of Iran’s uranium enrichment activities, President Bush said November 13.

Speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the White House, Bush said, “Iran with a nuclear weapon would be a destabilizing influence” on the Middle East and efforts to foster peace in the region, and he urged the international community collectively to tell Iranian leaders “if you choose to continue forward, you'll be isolated.”

The president said he hopes that “rational people” inside the Iranian government “recognize isolation is not in their country's interest,” and that the Iranian people desire a “better way forward.”

“I don't think they want to confront the world.  … I believe they could benefit by more trade and more openness with the world.  But their leaders have to make the decision, and the decision is abundantly clear to them,” he said.

Olmert said the Iranian government’s “fanaticism and … extremism,” exemplified by its repeated calls to destroy Israel “is not just a threat for Israel, but for the whole world.”

“[T]he fact that the leader of a nation such as Iran can threaten the very existence of another nation, as he does towards the state of Israel, is not something that we can tolerate or would ever tolerate, and certainly not when we know that he is trying to possess nuclear weapons,” Olmert said.

The Israeli leader also said he hopes to open “a serious dialogue” with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas once a new Palestinian government is established that desires a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict based on the “road map” for peace and the principles set by the United Nations, United Kingdom, Russia and the United States, collectively known as the “Quartet.” (See full text of road map plan.)

Olmert also expressed a willingness to negotiate with Syria, but said such talks must be based on “a certain reasonable, responsible policy, which is not preformed by Syria for the time being,” citing Syrian support for terrorism, and its activities in Iraq and Lebanon.

“I hope that one day the conditions for contacts between them and us will be created.  But to be honest, I don't think at the present time they manifest any such attitude.  And that makes it impossible,” Olmert said.

Bush said the United States expects Syria to leave Lebanon “so that the Lebanese democracy can exist,” to stop harboring terrorist and extremist leaders and to help Iraq’s “young democracy” succeed.

“The Syrian president [Bashar Al-Assad] knows my position,” Bush said.

A transcript of President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert’s remarks can be found on the White House Web site.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:


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