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Bush, Japanese Prime Minister Discuss Iran, Burma


U.S. President George Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda say they are determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, the two leaders called for the release of political prisoners in Burma and the destruction of nuclear weapons in North Korea.

Speaking to reporters following Oval Office talks, Mr. Bush said Japan and the United States are determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

"The prime minister and I agree that a nuclear-armed Iran would threaten the security of the Middle East and beyond," said Bush. "Our two nations are united in our efforts to change the regime's behavior through diplomacy. We agree that unless Iran commits to suspend enrichment, international pressure must and will grow."

Washington wants a third-round of economic sanctions against Iran. Tehran says it is not pursuing nuclear weapons and is enriching uranium only to generate electricity.

On the subject of Burma, President Bush and Prime Minister Fukuda called for dialogue between pro-democracy activists and the military government.

"The prime minister and I condemn the regime's crackdown on democratic activists," said Bush. "We call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners."

With U.S. sanctions already in place, President Bush says the prime minister told him Japan has canceled an aid grant to Burma and is reviewing existing assistance to ensure that funds directly benefit the Burmese people and not the military government.

This is the Japanese leader's first trip overseas since taking office in September, and President Bush says the visit to Washington shows the U.S.-Japanese alliance is vital for peace and security.

President Bush also thanked Prime Minister Fukuda for Japan's support of six-party talks on North Korea, saying that forum has already produced measurable results with the country's main plutonium production facilities now being disabled.

Progress in dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons program has raised concern in Japan that the United States might remove North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terror before the issue of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s is resolved.

President Bush sought to reassure his guest that the abductee issue will not be forgotten.

"I understand Mr. Prime Minister how important the issue is to the Japanese people," he said. "And we will not forget the Japanese abductees or their families."

On Afghanistan, Japan has been playing an important support role by refueling ships of coalition members nearly 800 times over the last six years. Legislation authorizing that mission expired this month, and Japanese opposition leaders say it violates the nation's pacifist constitution.

Prime Minister Fukuda said he will do his best to ensure early passage of a bill to resume those refueling operations.

"We should never allow Afghanistan to once again become a hotbed for terrorism. And we agreed that Japan and the United States should continue to work together with the international community in the fight against terrorism."

Japan hosts the next meeting of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations. Prime Minister Fukuda says climate change will be the focus of that summit.