US President George W. Bush, poised to outline to world leaders his vision of a 21st century framework for global security, pressed Iran once more Tuesday to immediately begin negotiations on its nuclear program.
Before going to the United Nations to address the General Assembly, Bush warned that any delay on the part of Teheran would bring consequences.
Iran's defiant pursuit of a nuclear program was at the top of the agenda when Bush talked to French President Jacques Chirac on the sidelines of the three-day UN General Assembly meeting. The French leader is balking at the US drive to sanction Iran for defying Security Council demands that it freeze uranium enrichment.
"Should they continue to stall," Bush said of Iranian leaders, "we will then discuss the consequences of their stalling." Bush, speaking after his meeting with Chirac, said those consequences would include the possibility of sanctions.
Chirac proposed on Monday that the international community compromise by suspending the threat of sanctions if Teheran agrees to halt its uranium enrichment program and return to negotiations.
Bush said that Iran must first suspend uranium enrichment "in which case the US will come to the table."
But he also stressed that he and Chirac "share the same objective and we're going to continue to strategize together."
"Time is of the essence," the president said. "Now is the time for the Iranians to come to the table."
Both Bush and Chirac stressed they are working together, and the French president said twice that they see "eye to eye."
Chirac said there never has been any ambiguity in the European Union's position towards Iran's nuclear program.
The French leader also said the European Union would not negotiate with Iran until it suspends uranium enrichment. "We cannot have negotiations if we do not have on one hand prior suspension," Chirac said.
Bush readied a speech for later Tuesday, seeking to persuade skeptical world leaders to embrace his vision for the Middle East. He was to call on the world to "stand up for peace" in the face of violent extremism.
His challenge is to build international support to confront multiple problems in the region.
Bush was allotted 15 minutes for his annual address to the General Assembly, and White House aides said he planned to use the time to call on the world to support moderate governments and help build up weak democracies in Iraq and Lebanon, as wells as the Palestinian Authority.
(China Daily September 20, 2006)