President Bush said Friday that he’s confident the international community will refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council unless Iran accounts for what the United States contends is a record of nuclear deceit.
“I am confident that the world will see to it that Iran goes to the U.N. Security Council if it does not live up to its agreements,” Bush said following a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “When that referral will happen is a matter of diplomacy and that’s what we talked about. We talked about how to deal with this situation diplomatically.”
Putin said he shared the U.S. goal of an Iran without nuclear arms, but offered no sign that he supported a referral to the Security Council. He also repeated the contention by Iranian leaders — disputed by the Bush administration — that Tehran has no ambitions for developing a nuclear weapon and instead wants its program for civilian energy use alone.
Putin said that Russia opposes Iran becoming “a nuclear power and will continue to do so in the future under any circumstances.”
Working to strike a conciliatory note with Russia, Bush said the two nations generally agree on a need to avert nuclear proliferation by other nations, including North Korea.
“We understand the stakes — that people who kill in cold blood, if they have weapons of mass destruction will kill in cold blood on a massive scale,” Bush said in the East Room of the White House.
The two, however, disagree over how to address Iran’s nuclear programs and have long-running differences over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq — the third member of what Bush has called the “axis of evil.”
Russia’s views close to America’s
Like Bush, Putin sought to show unity. He said there isn’t a wide breach between the two nations about how to quell Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
“Our positions are very close with the American partners here,” Putin said through a translator. “We will continue to coordinate our work.”
Bush said he talked with Putin about cooperating in fighting terrorists and the U.S.-Russia economic relationship. He said he would help get negotiations completed to get Russia admitted to the World Trade Organization by the end of the year.
Bush and Putin called one another friend and frequently used one another’s first names. Their bond was forged largely after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when Russia delivered help in the fight against terrorism.
The political relationship has frayed with each passing year, in part because of U.S. concerns that Putin is consolidating power in the Kremlin and eroding democratic advances in post-Soviet Russia. Nuclear nonproliferation, however, has proved an area of considerable cooperation.
On North Korea, the United States and Russia are among five nations negotiating in unison to persuade the communist North to give up its declared nuclear weapons in return for energy and security guarantees.
Agreement that North Korea not trustworthy
The current round of talks has come to a standstill in Beijing. U.S. and Russian diplomats agree that North Korea cannot be trusted with the civilian nuclear power plant it seeks.
The story is different on Iran, which says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful energy production. Russia is helping Iran develop nuclear energy, and the Russian Foreign Ministry recently said it sees no basis for referring Tehran to the Security Council.
When the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency meets next week, it could vote to send Iran’s case to the Security Council for possible penalties. The International Atomic Energy Agency could put off a vote, despite the Bush administration’s preference for a quick referral.
Bush’s hand may have been strengthened by statements from Iran’s president on Thursday.
Iran’s state-run news agency said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in New York to attend the U.N. world summit, said his country is willing to provide other Islamic nations with nuclear technology.
The European Union has taken the lead in trying to persuade Iran to halt development of nuclear activities that could be used to make weapons. In exchange, Iran would win economic concessions.
If the case does end up before the Security Council, Russian cooperation could be critical. As a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia could veto any resolution punishing Iran or could abstain.
China also could veto any possible punishment. The White House acknowledged Wednesday that Bush was unable to get a commitment on Iran during his meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao.