George W. Bush and
Germany's Chancellor Gerhard
Shröder reiterated today (Feb. 23) that Europe and the United States stand united on the principle that, in
Shröder's words, "Iran must say, no, to any kind of nuclear weapon, full stop." And at a later meeting in Germany, Bush said he and other European leaders are concerned about actions
Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken to curb press freedom.
Preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is "the joint target that Europeans uphold as much as the Americans, and we are very much of the opinion that this is the target that needs to be achieved through a diplomatic negotiating path,"
Shröder said through a translator during a joint news conference at the Electoral Palace in
Bush that Germany, along with Britain and
France, for taking the lead on the negotiations with Iran, adding that "it's vital that the Iranians here the world speak with one voice that they shouldn't have nuclear weapons."
While the United States retains the option of using force if necessary to dissuade Iran from developing nuclear armaments, Bush stated that he believes diplomacy still is possible. "We've just started the diplomatic efforts, and I want to thank our friends for taking the lead and...we will work with them to convince the mullahs that
they need to give up their nuclear ambitions," Bush said.
A reporter asked for the two leaders' reactions to statements from Iranian leaders that
Iran would not abandon its nuclear program unless is security and economic concerns were addressed. To this, Bush replied:
"...(T)he party that has caused these discussions to occur in the first place are the Iranians. And the reason we're having these discussions is because they were caught enriching uranium after they had signed a treaty saying they wouldn't enrich uranium. So there is a -- these discussions are occurring because they have breached a contract with the international community. They're the party that needs to be held to account, not any of us.
"And secondly, what we discussed with our German friends and French and British friends, as well, is a series of negotiating tactics -- how to make sure the process moves forward without yielding to our universal demand.
"I might add, I believe there's another demand that makes sense, as well, and that is that the Iranian government listen to the hopes and aspirations of the Iranian people. That's what the German system does; that's what the American system does. We believe that the voice of the people ought to be determining policy, because we believe in democracy and freedom. And so, as we go down the road, we look forward to discussing ways to make— to talk with the three interlocutors, without yielding at all on the universal demand that they must give up their weapons in a transparent way. And I'm hopeful we can achieve our objective. And we discussed tactics, some of which have bubbled up, obviously, into the public domain.
"And we will continue to talk tactics, to make sure that we achieve the objective: Iran must not have a nuclear weapon. For the sake of security and peace, they must not have a nuclear weapon. And that is a goal shared by Germany, France, Great Britain and the United States. And working together, we can get this accomplished."
The willingness of regimes to accommodate democracy also was the subject of a meeting at the Electoral Palace between Bush and a group of young professionals.
One noted that Bush had expressed admiration for The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and
Terror, the book by Natan Sharansky, a former prisoner of conscience in the Soviet Union who today is a Cabinet officer in
Israel. In it, Sharansky says democracy can be measured by the ability of a person to walk into the middle of a town square and express his views without fearing arrest or physical harm. How, the questioner asked, will that effect U.S. policy towards the Soviet Union?
Bush replied as follows:
"First of all, Sharansky's book confirmed how I was raised and what I believe, and it's essentially this: that deep in everybody's soul
— everybody's soul, is this deep desire to be free. That's what I believe. No matter where you're raised, no matter your religion, people want to be free; and that a foreign policy, particularly from a nation that is free, ought to be based upon that thought. You know, you can't discriminate. Freedom is not a discriminatory thought, at least in the White House
— in other words, if you say, certain people should be free, but others shouldn't free. It's a universal thought, as far as I'm concerned.
"And therefore, our foreign policy is based upon this notion that the world is a better place when people are able to realize that which is embedded in their soul, because in that book, also, he talks about the idea that free societies are peaceful societies
— democratic societies don't attack each other. And Europe is a classic example of countries which have embraced values based upon democracy, and is peaceful.
"And, yes, this same principle applies to not only Iraq, or Iran, or America, or Germany, but also Russia. And as you know, there's a lot of focus on my meeting with Vladimir Putin tomorrow. As a matter of fact, Gerhard and I spent a lot of time talking about Russia today. He's got a close relationship with Vladimir, on a personal basis. I've got a close relationship with Vladimir, on a personal basis. I expressed some concerns at the
European Union yesterday about some of the decisions, such as freedom of the press, that our mutual friend has made. And I look forward to talking to him about his decision-making process.
"One of the interesting things about being with a Chancellor, or in Putin's case, a President, is that we share something: We make decisions. And I like to learn from people how they make decisions. They say to me, what's the President like, give me a job description. The job description is, decision-maker. And maybe we can talk a little bit about that later on. But, yes, it applies to Russia, as well."