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Bush in Germany for Talks with Merkel


President Bush is in Germany for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel at a castle 60 kilometers from Berlin. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports it will be an opportunity for Mr. Bush to further cement ties with one of his strongest allies in Western Europe.

This is the first stop on the president's farewell tour of Western Europe, following the U.S.-EU summit in Slovenia.

U.S. officials say the brief visit to Germany amounts to a celebration of the close, personal bond Mr. Bush has established with Chancellor Merkel. The White House says it is also an opportunity for the president to mark the 60th anniversary of the implementation of the Marshall Plan and the Berlin airlift - American-led efforts to help the people of Germany after the allied victory in World War II.

There will be no formal events marking the anniversary duting the president's visit. But Mr. Bush and Chancellor Merkel are expected to make comments about its importance when they appear before reporters at a joint news conference.

The session with the media will follow several hours of talks that are likely to focus on areas ranging from the future of trans-Atlantic ties, to climate change, to the diplomatic effort to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions.

On Monday, Iran was a lead item on the agenda for the final U.S.-EU summit of the Bush presidency.

At a joint news conference after the talks in Slovenia, Mr. Bush brought up the importance of unified pressure on Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment activities.

"Iran with a nuclear weapon would be incredibly dangerous for world peace. And so we've got to continue to work together to make it clear, abundantly clear to them, that it's their choice to make: They can either face isolation or they can have better relations with all of us if they verifiably suspend their enrichment program," he said.

The president said EU security chief Javier Solana will be traveling to Tehran soon to make sure that message gets through to Iran's leaders.

White House National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley says Solana will be carrying a "refreshed offer" from Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia and the United States. Hadley does not provide details, but the statement issued at the end of the U.S.-EU summit mentions the possibility of further sanctions beyond those all ready put in place by the United Nations.

Iran says its nuclear program is designed solely to produce nuclear power. But President Bush says Tehran can not be trusted, and the same technology can be applied to the development of nuclear weapons.

"And if they end up with a nuclear weapon, the free world is going to say, why didn't we do something about it at the time, before they developed it? And so now is the time for there to be strong diplomacy," he said.

From Germany, Mr. Bush travels to Italy, which has expressed a willingness to join the diplomatic effort on Iran. The president will also go to France and the United Kingdom before returning to Washington next Monday.

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