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Bush Calls for Tough Stand on Iran's Nuclear Program

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, left, with President Bush at the White House
President Bush is urging European nations negotiating with Iran to stand firm on Tehran's nuclear ambitions. He spoke at the White House following talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

The meeting occurred just days after the hard-line mayor of Tehran was elected as Iran's new president.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has vowed to restart Iran's nuclear enrichment program, but has also left the door open for continued negotiations with Germany, France and Great Britain.

When asked if he had a message for Mr. Ahmadinejad, President Bush gestured to Chancellor Schroeder.

"My message is to the Chancellor is that we continue working with Great Britain, France and Germany to send a focused, concerted, unified message that says the development of a nuclear weapon is unacceptable, and a process which would enable Iran to develop a nuclear weapon is unacceptable," he said.

It was Mr. Bush's first comment on Iran since a winner was declared in Friday's run-off election. He did not speak at length, and delivered the same assessment of the Iranian political process that he did before the balloting took place. Once again, he focused on clerics who set the rules for the campaign.

"It is never free and fair when a group of unelected people decide who is on the ballot," the president said.

Chancellor Schroeder signaled agreement with President Bush's call for a strong, united negotiating stance on the nuclear issue, saying Germany and its partners will be tough and firm.

Berlin-based reporters traveling with the German leader say he spoke during the flight to Washington of a new offer to Tehran. They say he also indicated that it is unlikely any deal would bar the peaceful use of nuclear energy by Iran.

The Bush administration has said it remains skeptical that Tehran has any intention of ever limiting itself to a civilian nuclear program. Shortly before the Bush-Schroeder meeting, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Washington remains concerned that Tehran intends to develop nuclear weapons under the guise of a peaceful energy program.