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. Bush impatient over Iran nuclear talks
WASHINGTON (AFP) Feb 18, 2005
US President George W. Bush said Friday that talk of a US military strike on Iran's nuclear programs was "just not the truth" but expressed impatience with Tehran's response to Europe-led overtures.

In television interviews ahead of his fence-mending trip to Europe next week, Bush expressed strong support for diplomacy led by Britain, France and Germany, but resisted calls for a bigger US role in those talks with Tehran.

"What they're trying to do is kind of wiggle out," he said of the Iranians during an exchange with Germany's ARD television. "They're trying to say, 'well, we won't do anything, because America is not involved.'"

"But America is involved. We're in close consultation with our friends. We're on the board of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). And we will continue to work with friends and allies," he said.

Iran will be high on the agenda next week as Bush meets in Europe with European Union and NATO leaders, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Looking ahead to his meeting in Bratislava Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bush told ITAR-TASS: " We can work on Iran to make sure the Iranians don't have a nuclear weapon."

Britain, France and Germany have been spearheading diplomatic efforts to get Iran to abandon processes which could be used to make nuclear arms. Washington has charged that the Islamic republic seeks weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

"It's hard to trust a regime that doesn't trust their own people," Bush told France's TV-3. "The Iranians ought to listen to the reformers in their country, those who believe in democracy, and give them a say in government."

Bush repeatedly refused, as a matter of principle, to rule out US military action against Iran but worked to defuse global concerns that the Islamic Republic was next on his list after Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

"I hear all these rumors about military attacks, and it's just not the truth. We want diplomacy to work. And I believe diplomacy can work, so long as the Iranians don't divide Europe and the United States," he told ARD.

"The common goal is for them not to have a nuclear weapon," said Bush, who in 2002 branded Iran part of an "axis of evil" with Saddam Hussein's Iraq and North Korea.

Bush said Tehran also had to "stop exporting terror through Hezbollah, which could be a devastating blow to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian people."

Iran and Syria are the two main supporters of the Lebanese Shiite Muslim group, which pursues an anti-Israeli guerrilla campaign.

The Iranians also "ought to open up their country to more democracy and freedom, just like we do in the United States and Germany -- give their people a chance to express themselves in a free way," said Bush.

Last week, in Brussels, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice issued a veiled rebuke to Berlin, London and Paris for not using the threat of bringing the case to UN Security Council enough.

For their part, Europeans want "substantially more active support" from the US, according to a high level European diplomat.

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