Monday, June 19, 2006

Bush Urges Iran to Halt Uranium Enrich

Daniela Deane, The Washington Post:
President Bush, saying nuclear weapons in Iranian hands poses a "grave threat" to the world, used a commencement address today to warn Tehran again to suspend all uranium enrichment activity and join multi-country talks on containing its nuclear program.

Read a transcript of President Bush's speech to graduates of the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y.

Bush said the United States and its allies are united in their stand that Iran give up trying to enrich uranium -- the first step toward building a bomb -- or face international sanctions. READ MORE

President Bush leaves the White House, Monday, June 19, 2006, for a trip to Kings Point, N.Y., to deliver the commencement address at The United States Merchant Marine Academy. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds) (Ron Edmonds - AP)

"If Iran's leaders want peace and prosperity and a hopeful future for their people, it should abandon its quest for nuclear weapons," Bush told the graduating class of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., about 20 miles east of Manhattan.

Bush urged Tehran to accept an offer to join international talks on the issue.

"We have presented a reasonable offer," Bush said. "Iran's leaders have a clear choice: We hope that they will accept our offer and voluntarily suspend these activities so we can work out an agreement that will bring Iran real benefits."

"If Iran's leaders reject our offer, it will result in action before the Security Council, further isolation from the world and progressively stronger political and economic sanctions," Bush warned.

Iran has argued that its research is geared toward civilian nuclear projects.

The president said he had a "message for the Iranian regime. America and our partners are united."

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France -- along with Germany have offered Iran incentives to continue developing a civilian nuclear power program in exchange for giving up its current uranium enrichment activity.

Bush made his remarks on the eve of a trip to Europe. Tony Snow, his press secretary, told reporters this morning that Bush's commencement remarks were a way of "teeing-up what is going to be a topic of conversation . . . at the European Union consultations this week."

Snow described the president's comments as a "reiteration of the position about the importance of an Iran without nuclear weapons."

The proposal formally presented to the Iranians on June 6 calls on Iran to suspend, not permanently halt, uranium enrichment as a condition for the start of talks. Tehran was not given a deadline to respond to the offer. But Bush said on June 9 that Tehran had "weeks, not months" to decide to comply voluntarily to avoid sanctions.

In his speech, the president said he did not oppose Tehran having a civilian nuclear power program as long as it has proper international safeguards to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Bush is the first U.S. president to address a graduating class at the academy. His former chief of staff, Andrew Card, who studied at the academy, attended the event with him.

Bush joked that Card got a warmer welcome today than when he attended the academy. "When he was a plebe, he was stuffed in a duffle bag and run up the flagpole," Bush said.