President Bush and French President Jacques Chirac say they are in absolute agreement on the need for Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment activities before any negotiations over the country's nuclear program. The two leaders met in New York Tuesday before President Bush's address to the United Nations General Assembly.
Sitting alongside the French leader, President Bush said the United States and France have a common goal: preventing Iran from possessing a nuclear weapon. Mr. Bush said he would like to solve the matter diplomatically, and repeated his administration's offer to join European-led talks with Iran if Tehran suspends its enrichment of uranium, a process that yields nuclear material that could be used to build a weapon.
Mr. Bush suggested the international community's patience with Iran is not limitless.
"We believe time is of the essence. Should they [Iran's leaders] continue to stall, we will then discuss the consequences of the stalling," Mr. Bush says. "And one of those consequences of stalling, of course, would be some kind of sanctions program. But now is the time for the Iranians to come to the [negotiating] table."
President Chirac echoed much of what Mr. Bush said, dismissing any suggestion of divisions between Washington and Paris over Iran's nuclear program.
Mr. Chirac said the United States and France see eye-to-eye and are both determined to move ahead in a constructive manner. He said that the first thing that must be done is to bring Iran's enrichment activities to an end.
Mr. Chirac added that negotiations are the way to resolve the matter, but negotiations will go forward only after Iran suspends its enrichment activities.
The United States and European nations suspect one goal of Iran's nuclear program is to make nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is intended for purely peaceful purposes - to generate energy for a growing population. Iran's leaders have rejected calls to halt nuclear enrichment activities ahead of negotiations, but suggested that a suspension agreement could emerge from talks. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who is attending the United Nations General Assembly session in New York, has questioned the right of Western nations that already possess nuclear weapons to dictate what other nations like Iran may do in the nuclear field.
President Bush has called for the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran if Tehran refuses to comply with U.N. demands for enrichment suspension. Two veto-wielding nations on the Security Council, Russia and China, have resisted such calls.