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Bush Calls on Iran to Stop Enriching Uranium

President Bush says Iran has the right to have civilian nuclear power as long fuel for its reactors is provided by an outside source. Otherwise, Mr. Bush said he does not trust the Iranian government to develop nuclear power solely for peaceful purposes. Mr. Bush's comments came during an interview Tuesday with VOA's Persian News Network. More from VOA's Bill Rodgers.

Iran says its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful purposes only. But the United States and other countries contend Iran wants to become a nuclear power. President Bush told VOA's Persian News Network (P.N.N.) there is a solution.

"I believe in civilian nuclear power. Iran is a sovereign country and they should have it. The problem is we just don't trust the government because they haven't been forthcoming about their enrichment of fuels to go into the reactor. Therefore Russia's offer to provide fuel on a contractual basis, and provide fuel on a consistent basis, would help solve the problem," he said.

The impasse led the U.N. Security Council early this month to impose a third set of sanctions against Iran for its refusal to stop enriching uranium. These latest sanctions would, among other things, tighten monitoring of Iranian financial institutions and freeze assets against persons or companies involved in the nuclear program.

In the VOA interview, Mr. Bush blamed Iran's leadership for pursuing policies that have isolated Iran. "The Iranian leaders, in their desire to enrich uranium, have isolated a great country. There's a way forward. The Iranian leaders know there's a way forward, and that is to verifiably suspend your enrichment and you can have new relationships with people (countries) in the U.N. Security Council, for example," he said.

After voting in parliamentary elections last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad again denounced the U.N. Security Council, saying western nations do not understand his country.

Iran has said it will only cooperate with the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, not the Security Council. However, the IAEA has also expressed serious concern over Tehran's intentions, citing recently disclosed intelligence reports indicating Iran had secretly researched how to make nuclear weapons.

Mr. Bush, during the VOA interview, repeatedly drew a distinction between the Iranian government and the people of Iran. He expressed support for reformers and accused the government of failing to meet the needs of the people, while blaming the United States for the country's problems.

Oil-rich Iran, which is suffering from inflation and other economic problems, is marking the traditional start of the new year -- Norooz. While speaking with VOA's Persian News Network, President Bush delivered a special message to mark the celebrations. "The people of the United States respect the people of Iran. We respect the traditions of Iran, the great history of Iran. We have differences with the government but we honor the people. And we want the people to live in a free society," he said.

As Iranians observed the holiday, some told western reporters they hope the new year will bring big economic improvements in the country.