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. Bush says he's ready to help Europeans with Iran, blames Tehran
WASHINGTON (AFP) Mar 04, 2005
US President George W. Bush on Thursday again stated his willingness to assist European countries in their negotiations with Iran, and blamed Tehran for a lack of cooperation.

"I have told our European friends who are handling the negotiations on behalf of the rest of the world that we want to help make sure the process goes forward, and we're looking at ways to help move the process forward," Bush said, noting talks he had during last week's trip to Europe.

Bush's remarks were echoed across Washington at the State Department by the chief US diplomat, Condoleezza Rice, who said Tehran had shown "no indication" it was ready to seal a deal.

Rice also reiterated the prospect that Iran could face UN action if it did not show a willingness to cooperate on the matter.

Meanwhile in Vienna, diplomats said Iran is pouring the concrete foundation for a heavy-water nuclear reactor which can make weapons-grade plutonium and which the UN atomic agency had asked it not to build.

The work at a 40-megawatt reactor at Arak, southwest of Tehran, began in September, just after the UN atomic agency had asked Iran to refrain from building the reactor as a "confidence-building measure" that it does not seek to make nuclear weapons, a diplomat who asked not to be named told AFP.

International Atomic Energy Agency deputy director Pierre Goldschmidt said Tuesday that Iran was pressing ahead with work on the Arak reactor but he gave no details on how far the work had progressed.

The IAEA called on Iran Thursday to do more to cooperate with UN inspectors and backed a European Union effort to give Tehran trade and security benefits in exchange for abandoning nuclear fuel cycle work.

That call came as Bush in Washington again stressed that Iran should not be allowed to develop potential nuclear weapons.

"I am most appreciative that our friends in Europe agree with the United States that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon," he said, underlining his view on Iran and nuclear weapons with the words, "Period. No ands, ifs or buts."

"And, by the way, Mr. (Russian President Vladimir) Putin feels the same way. And to me that is a very positive start for achieving our common objective," Bush added.

"The guilty party is Iran. They're the ones who are not living up to international accords. They're the people that the whole world is saying: 'Don't develop a weapon.'

Rice, speaking to reporters after talks here with her Danish counterpart Stig Moeller, also made it clear Washington was keeping its diplomatic options open in dealing with Iran.

"We believe that the EU negotiations are leading in the right direction because what they are doing is they are confronting Iran with a choice about whether it is prepared to give the international community the kind of confidence it needs about Iranian activities," Rice said.

But she added: "Thus far the Iranians have shown no indication that they are interested in taking that deal."

Meanwhile, in Tehran, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the United States and Europe, by seeking to bar the country from enriching uranium, want to prevent it from developing.

"The United States and Europe, despite their differences, are united in pressuring Iran to renounce the enrichment of uranium because enrichment is a road toward scientific progress, and if a people travel that road the oppressors will have less effect on them," he told a group of students.

"The reason the United States and Europe are hostile to Iran progressing in the field of nuclear technology is because they do not want the Iranian people to progress," he said, quoted by the official IRNA news agency.

Britain, France and Germany have been negotiating with Iran since December in a bid to convince it to give objective guarantees that its atomic energy program is purely for peaceful purposes, offering in exchange nuclear, trade and technological cooperation.

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