Presidents meet on sidelines of APEC summit in South Korea
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The mutual U.S.-Russian goal of persuading Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions was discussed by President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin November 18 in Busan, South Korea, according to Stephen Hadley, Bush’s national security advisor.
Bush and Putin “compared notes on the latest efforts to try and get Iran back into a negotiated framework in which it will reassure the world that it's not pursuing a nuclear weapons program and give up, on a permanent basis, enrichment and reprocessing, and how to try and achieve that,” Hadley told reporters.
The two presidents, who met for an hour on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting, also discussed North Korea’s nuclear arms program, the upcoming World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in Hong Kong, and the challenges posed by avian flu, Hadley said.
Hadley commended Russia for steps it has taken “that have been very constructive in trying to lead Iran to a different path,” such as trying to “reduce the proliferation risk” of Iran’s Bushehr reactor through an agreement under which spent fuel rods from the Iranian plant would be sent back to Russia.
He added that Russia’s proposal for constructing a uranium enrichment facility in Russia that Iran would manage and have a financial interest in, which would provide fuel for Bushehr, is “an interesting idea.”
The U.S. position is that Iran’s rejection of the proposal “doesn't end it, and that this will be an issue that we will return to with the Iranians,” he said, adding “we hope that over time Iran will see the virtue of this approach.”
“President Putin talked about [Russian Foreign Minister] Igor Ivanov, who had just been in Iran, and gave a bit of a report,” Hadley said.
In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said Russia is working "productively with the EU-3 [France, Germany and the United Kingdom]" on negotiations with Iran. "We're supportive of that."
"Russia certainly has shown in the past a concern about Iranian activity and an eagerness to take action to prevent diversion and use of nuclear fuel to develop nuclear weapons, as evidenced by the Bushehr take-back deal," he said. "So they've played a helpful and important role in this, and it certainly is our experience that they continue to do that."
The U.S. view is that "what the EU-3 and Russians are doing is positive and useful and important," Ereli concluded, "and the Iranians should again resume negotiations with the EU-3 and suspend enrichment-related activity."
Hadley said that during their meeting, Bush and Putin also discussed the Six-Party Talks aimed at getting North Korea to dismantle its nuclear arms program, Syrian interference in Lebanon, the shared fight against terrorism, and “a little discussion about Iraq.”
Asked about an announcement that South Korea is considering cutting its force in Iraq, Hadley said South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun assured Bush in their meeting November 16 that they “remain committed to Iraq, it's important to bring democracy to Iraq, and we will continue to provide troops to that mission.”