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. Bush, Schroeder step up pressure on Iran
MAINZ, Germany (AFP) Feb 23, 2005
US President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder jointly warned Tehran against acquiring a nuclear weapon, amid growing signs of transatlantic cooperation on Iran.

The two leaders also set aside their bitter dispute over Iraq and agreed to cooperate on building democracy there, as Bush agreed to consider what Washington could do to help Europe-led overtures to the Islamic republic.

"It's vital that the Iranians hear the world speak with one voice that they shouldn't have a nuclear weapon," Bush said on the second leg of a visit aimed at definitively repairing transatlantic ties damaged by the Iraq war.

"We absolutely agree that Iran must say no to any kind of nuclear weapon, full stop," Schroeder said told a joint news conference. "They must waive any right to the production of them."

At the same time, Bush sought to soothe European worries that he plans to use military force against Iran, saying that "all options are on the table," but stressing that "diplomacy is just beginning" and that "Iran is not Iraq."

Bush has refused to join diplomatic outreach by Britain, France and Germany, signalled growing impatience at the Islamic republic's response, and has steadfastly refused to rule out military force.

Washington has pushed for dragging Tehran before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. The Europeans still hope to persuade Iran to comply with international obligations in return for a lucrative package of trade deals.

"There needs to be movement on both sides," said Schroeder. "We'll continue to talk tactics," said Bush.

"The question is how can we help. It's not just a question of the carrots and sticks discussion," said White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley. "There is time to do this in a thoughtful way."

Later, during a roundtable with young business and academic leaders, Bush looked ahead to his meeting in Bratislava Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and said he would raise concerns about Russian democracy.

"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," said Bush.

A senior US official travelling with Bush told reporters that the White House sought "a constructive relationship with Russia: Cooperate where we can but remain true to your values."

"That is easy to say but hard as hell to do," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

On Syria, Bush said Damascus must withdraw its "secret services" and roughly 14,000 troops from Lebanon and keep out of upcoming Lebanese parliamentary elections.

"We will see how they respond before there's any further discussions about going back to the United Nations," the US president said.

Bush and Schroeder agreed to banish their differences over the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, and focus on ways to help Iraqis build a democracy in the wake of the January 30 elections.

"Nobody wants to conceal that we had different opinions about these things in the past, but that is the past," said Schroeder, who fiercely opposed the war. "Now our joint interest is that we come to a stable, democratic Iraq."

Bush noted that Germany had signed on to help Iraq through debt relief and other measures and said "I fully understand the limitations" behind Berlin's refusal to send troops or train Iraq security forces inside Iraq itself.

Asked to assess US-German relations nearly 16 years after his father said in a landmark speech in Mainz that Germany and the United States were "partners in leadership," Bush declared: "We need partners, and Germany is a partner.

"We have agreed that we are not going to constantly emphasize where we're not agreeing, but we want to focus on where we do agree," Schroeder said, drawing a chuckle from his guest.

In a reminder of lingering differences, some 4,000 anti-war protestors rallied in Mainz, cordoned off by police.

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