President Bush says he has no plan to meet with Cuba's new president, Raul Castro, because he represents nothing more than an extension of the policies of his brother, Fidel Castro. Mr. Bush says it would send the wrong signal to people around the world if the president of the United States meets with tyrants. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.
President Bush says he has tried to stay out of this year's presidential campaign, vowing to wait until his Republican Party has chosen its nominee.
But at a White House news conference Thursday, the president was asked what he thinks about one of the opposition candidates saying America, would be better off if the president met with some of nation's biggest adversaries -- in particular, Iran and Cuba.
Mr. Bush said the United States must never embrace tyrants because that would sow confusion about U.S. foreign policy. "It'll send the wrong message. It'll send a discouraging message to those who wonder whether America will continue to work for the freedom of prisoners. It'll give great status to those who have suppressed human rights and human dignity," he said.
Democratic candidate Senator Barack Obama said the United States should play a more direct role in seeking talks with leaders in countries such as Iran, North Korea, Syria and Cuba.
Obama has said he would meet with all of those leaders without preconditions during his first year in office.
On Cuba, President Bush said it would be wrong for an American president to meet with Raul Castro after he and his brother Fidel have ruined an island and imprisoned people because of their beliefs. "Sitting down at the table, having your picture taken with a tyrant such as Raul Castro, for example, lends the status of the office and the status of our country to him. He gains a lot from it by saying, 'Look at me. I am now recognized by the President of the United States,'" he said.
In a Democratic debate last July, Obama likened his willingness to meet with foreign enemies to the dialogue that Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic President John Kennedy had with the then Soviet Union. "The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration, is ridiculous," he said.
Obama is leading the race to become the Democratic Party's presidential nominee heading into important contests Tuesday in Ohio and Texas against the previous frontrunner, New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.