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Bush, Merkel talk new Iran sanctions
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel told US President George W. Bush on Saturday she would be willing to support a third round of UN sanctions against Iran if Teheran continues to resist demands to halt sensitive nuclear work.


US President George W. Bush (R) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel speak during a joint press conference outside Bush's office on his ranch in Crawford, Texas. 


Merkel, in a visit to Bush's ranch in Crawford, also said she would consider possible cuts in her country's brisk trade flows with Iran should other efforts fail to secure Teheran's cooperation over its nuclear program.


Bush agreed with Merkel that diplomacy was the best way to resolve the standoff with Iran.


"We were at one in saying that the threat posed through the nuclear program of Iran is indeed a serious one," Merkel said at a joint news conference with Bush.


"We both share this view, but we also were of the opinion that we think that this issue can be solved through diplomatic means; that the next step, then, obviously, would be a resolution," she said through a translator.


Merkel said she would wait for reports on Iran's nuclear activities from the EU negotiator and the UN atomic watchdog before making a final decision on sanctions.


Britain, France, Germany, the US, Russia and China are expected to meet on November 19 to assess reports from EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei.


"If the reports remain unsatisfactory ... we need to think about further possible sanctions. ... We also have to then talk and agree on further possible sanctions," Merkel said.


Merkel said she would talk with German companies about "further possible reductions of those commercial ties" with Iran.


The West accuses Iran of seeking to develop a nuclear weapon but Teheran says its nuclear program is purely for civilian purposes of generating electricity.


Bush alarmed some European allies last month when he said a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to World War III. The Bush administration insists it is committed to pursuing diplomacy with Iran, but also says all options are on the table.


"What the Iranian regime must understand is that we will continue to work together to solve this problem diplomatically, which means they will continue to be isolated," Bush said at the news conference.


Bush and Merkel's two days of talks at the ranch also covered issues including Afghanistan, global warming and a planned conference on Middle East peace.


US President George W. Bush takes German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a ride in his pick-up truck on his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Nov. 9, 2007.


The ranch visit was also aimed at deepening ties between Washington and Berlin after a rift that opened over the Iraq War. Bush had a chilly relationship with Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, a vocal critic of the Iraq War.


Bush and Merkel have a friendly rapport which was underscored by his suggestion that she visit the ranch, an invitation he usually reserves for his favorite world leaders.


Bush last week also focused on a renewal of ties with France, hosting French President Nicolas Sarkozy at a formal dinner at the White House and then accompanying him on a tour of the estate in Mount Vernon, Virginia, of the first US president, George Washington. Bush and Sarkozy pledged a common approach on Iran as well.


Bush showed Merkel around his 650-hectare ranch during a morning walk. Joined by their spouses on Friday evening, the leaders dined on pecan-smoked beef tenderloin and green chili-cheese grits souffle.


On Saturday, they continued their talks over hamburgers.


(China Daily November 12, 2007)

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