Europeans Back Bush on Iran, North Korea

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The New York Sun

VIENNA, Austria (AP) – President Bush on Wednesday won a robust endorsement from European leaders for his tough approach to nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea, despite trans-Atlantic differences on Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and trade.

European Union leaders emerged from a summit with Bush in this capital of cafes and cobblestones to back U.S. demands that North Korea abandon a long-range missile test and that Iran quit dragging its feet in responding to a Western plan aimed at getting it to suspend uranium enrichment activity.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that his country will respond to the proposal by mid-August.

Bush was cool to the time frame. “It shouldn’t take the Iranians that long to analyze what is a reasonable deal,” he said. “We’ll come to the table when they verifiably suspend. Period.”

The summit host, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel _ whose country holds the rotating presidency of the 25-nation EU _ said it’s best for Iran to agree to the proposal soon. “This is the carrot. Take it,” Schuessel said.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman said Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns and his British, French, German, Chinese and Russian counterparts agreed that Iran should accept the offer “within weeks, not months.”

On North Korea, Schuessel agreed with Bush that the communist country faces further isolation from the international community if it test fires a long-range missile believed capable of reaching U.S. soil.

“It should make people nervous when non-transparent regimes who have announced they have nuclear warheads, fire missiles,” Bush said. “This is not the way you conduct business in the world.”

Schuessel said Europe would support the U.S. against North Korea if it test fires the missile.

“If that happens, there will be a strong statement and a strong answer from the international community. And Europe will be part of it. There’s no doubt,” said Schuessel, who appeared with Bush and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to address reporters.

There were a host of other issues on the U.S.-EU agenda. After the meeting and a little tourism, Bush arrived in Hungary for an overnight stay.

On terrorism, Bush thanked the Europeans for their support in Afghanistan and Iraq, while acknowledging past disputes about the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

“I can understand the differences … but what’s past is past and what’s ahead is a hopeful democracy in the Middle East,” he said.

Across the 25-nation bloc, mounting discontent over the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the campaign in Iraq and the purported existence of secret CIA terror prisons in Eastern Europe have threatened to eclipse the talks.

Bush acknowledged European concerns about the 460 detainees held at the U.S. facility in Cuba because of their suspected ties to al-Qaida and Taliban. But he said the group includes some dangerous people who need to be brought to justice.

“I understand their concerns,” Bush said. “I’d like to end Guantanamo. I’d like it to be over with.”

Bush said 200 detainees had been sent home, and that most of the remaining 460 are from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Afghanistan.

“There are some who need to be tried in U.S. courts,” he said. “They’re cold-blooded killers. They will murder somebody if they are let out on the street.”

Barroso said the leaders also discussed with Bush a way to reach a balanced conclusion to a global trade deal. The United States is among 149 nations trying to finish the international round of trade talks known as the Doha Round, named after the city in Qatar where they began.

Negotiators have missed several deadlines. There are disagreements over cutting farm barriers in Europe, the United States and other rich nations. Major developing countries, such as India and Brazil, also are refusing to significantly reduce trade barriers that protect their manufacturing and service industries.

“After the good exchange of views we had today during this summit, I’m convinced _ I’m really convinced that it’s possible to have a successful outcome of the Doha talks,” Barroso said. “And it’s crucially important from a trade point of view, from a global economic point of view, but also from a development point of view.”

Bush dismissed as “absurd” a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in which European nations said U.S. involvement in Iraq was a worse problem than Iran and its nuclear program.

While Bush scores low on popularity polls in Europe, Schuessel rose to his defense, which seemed to catch the American president by surprise.

“I think it’s grotesque to say that America is a threat to the peace in the world compared with North Korea, Iran, a lot of countries,” Schuessel said, adding that it was Bush who raised Guantanamo and other thorny issues.

“He came up, and he said, `Look, this is my problem. This is where we are,'” Schuessel said. “And I think we should be fair from the other side of the Atlantic. We should understand what Sept. 11 meant to the American people.”

Still, anti-Bush sentiment was prevalent.

About 1,200 students chanting “Bush Go Home!” rallied at a train station to protest his visit to the capital, where 1,000 police officers were assigned solely to deal with demonstrators. Another 2,000 officers patrolled the city.

Leading the students was U.S. “peace mom” Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son in Iraq and energized the anti-war movement last summer with a protest outside Bush’s Texas ranch. Demonstrators waved black flags, blew whistles, beat drums and shouted, “Hey, ho, Bush has got to go!” Others carried banners and signs that said “World’s No. 1 Terrorist” and “Islam is not the enemy.”

The New York Sun

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