WASHINGTON — President Bush said Tuesday that “all options are on the table” to prevent Iran from developing atomic weapons, but Russia maintained its opposition to sanctions as it hosted a meeting on next steps.
“We want to solve this issue diplomatically and we’re working hard to do so,” Bush told reporters in the Rose Garden.
Bush also said there should be a unified effort involving countries “who recognize the danger of Iran having a nuclear weapon,” and he noted that U.S. officials are working closely with nations such as Great Britain, France and Germany on the issue.”
“We will continue to work diplomatically,” he said.
As Bush spoke, diplomats from six countries converged in Moscow to map out the next steps toward solving the Iranian nuclear standoff.
U.S. diplomat: No agreement on sanctions
A U.S. diplomat in Moscow said Tuesday that envoys from the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany discussed sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, but failed to reach agreement on how to proceed further.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told The Associated Press following nearly three hours of talks that diplomats recognized the “need for a stiff response to Iran’s flagrant violations of its international responsibilities.”
Burns, speaking in Moscow, said sanctions had been discussed during the meeting hosted by Russia but indicated that further talks would be needed.
“Iran’s actions last week have deepened concern in the international community and all of us agreed that the actions last week were fundamentally negative and a step backward,” he told AP. “So now the task for us is to agree on a way forward.”
Burns gave no specifics as to the type or timing of sanctions and he refused to say whether Russia had softened its opposition to sanctions against Iran. But he reiterated that the United States expected action in the Security Council after an April 28 deadline for Iran to stop uranium enrichment.
Iranian leader defiant
Ahmadinejad remained defiant, warning on Tuesday that Iran will “cut off the hand of any aggressor” that threatens it and insisting that its military has to be equipped with the most modern technology.
“The land of Iran has created a powerful army that can powerfully defend the political borders,” he told a parade commemorating Iran’s Army Day.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin on Tuesday reaffirmed Moscow’s insistence on more diplomacy with Iran. “We are convinced that neither sanctions nor the use of force will lead to the solution of the problem,” he said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.
The United States and Britain say that if Iran does not comply with the U.N. Security Council’s April 28 deadline to stop uranium enrichment, they will seek a resolution that would make the demand compulsory but Russia and China remain wary of sanctions.
Bush wants pressure from Hu
Bush said he intends to call on Chinese President Hu Jintao to step up pressure on Iran when the two leaders meet Thursday at the White House.
Iran has so far refused to give up uranium enrichment, which the United States and some of its allies suspect is meant to produce weapons. Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Bush was asked if his administration was planning for the possibility of a nuclear strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.
“All options are on the table,” he said. But, the president added: “We’ll continue to work diplomatically to get this problem solved.”
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