President Bush is backing an initiative to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program by having Iran enrich uranium inside Russia. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports President Bush discussed the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of an Asian economic summit in South Korea.
U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said the proposal to have Iran enrich uranium inside Russia is a good avenue to explore, despite Iran's initial rejection. "It would give Iran a sense that it would have an assured fuel supply for its civil nuclear power program because it would have management participation and financial participation in the venture, but it would have it offshore in Russia rather than in Iran," he said. "This is an interesting idea. The Iranians, probably not surprisingly, initially have said 'no', this is something that they want as a sovereign exercise to have on their territory. We think it is an area for further conversation."
Mr. Hadley said the focus of the talks between President Bush and President Putin was the steps Russia is taking to lead Iran to a different path for its nuclear ambitions.
President Bush says Iran is secretly developing a nuclear-weapons program. Iran says it is pursuing nuclear power for the peaceful civilian purpose of generating electricity.
If Iran refuses to agree to additional inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, President Bush wants the country brought before the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. Russia has resisted that approach in favor of continuing to help Iran build a safer nuclear reactor on the understanding that spent uranium would be returned to Russia instead of potentially being reprocessed for weapons.
Britain, France, and Germany have been leading efforts to mediate the dispute and support Russia's proposal. Mr. Hadley said the United States, Russia, and the three European nations all share concerns about Iran's intentions.
"Based on the fact that Iran had a nuclear program undisclosed for 15 years, held covertly, not disclosed to the IAEA in violation of the safeguards agreement, we all have concerns about the nuclear intentions of Iran," said Mr. Hadley. "That is why we are in this negotiation. That is why we are talking about trying to get them out of the business of an enrichment and reprocessing capability. We all have that concern. And we also share the concern, the two presidents share the concern, that Iran with a nuclear weapon is a destabilizing thing for the region."
Mr. Hadley said President Bush and President Putin also discussed the need to move forward on World Trade Organization talks, Syria's involvement in Lebanon, and North Korea's nuclear-weapons program as well as the war in Iraq and efforts to curb a potentially calamitous outbreak of avian flu.