Europe backs Bush on growing nuke crises

Iran Materials 22 June 2006 11:14 (UTC +04:00)

(AP) - President Bush won solid European support Wednesday for his handling of escalating nuclear crises with North Korea and Iran but was challenged over the Iraq war, the U.S. prison camp in Cuba and rising anti-American sentiment. "That's absurd," Bush snapped at a news conference in response to an assertion that the United States was regarded as the biggest threat to global security. "We'll defend ourselves, but at the same time we're actively working with our partners to spread peace and democracy, reports Trend.

Unbidden, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel rose with an impassioned defense that seemed to surprise the president.

"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. Europe would not enjoy peace and prosperity if not for U.S. help after World War II, he said.

"We should be fair from the other side of the Atlantic," Schuessel said. "We should understand what September 11th meant to the American people."

But the chancellor also prodded Bush.

"We can only have a victory in the fight against terror if we don't undermine our common values," Schuessel said. "It can never be a victory, a credible victory over terrorists if we give up our values: democracy, rule of law, individual rights."

Bush came here for the annual summit of the United States and the 25-nation European Union at a time when favorable opinions of the U.S. have fallen across Europe.

About 1,200 students chanting "Bush Go Home!" marched through Vienna to a church square not far from Hofburg Palace where the leaders met. They were led by Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son in Iraq and energized the anti-war movement a year ago with a monthlong protest outside Bush's Texas ranch.

Bush readily acknowledged summit disputes.

"We disagreed in an agreeable way on certain issues," the president said. Bush also chatted with foreign students at a round-table, toured the national library and listened to the Vienna Boys Choir before arriving in Budapest, Hungary to spend the night.

The president won backing for the demand that North Korea abandon plans to test-fire a long-range missile. "It should make people nervous when non-transparent regimes that have announced that they've got nuclear warheads fire missiles," he said.

Bush said he was glad China had joined in urging North Korea not to test, and said he had talked with the leaders of Russia and Japan to enlist their help, as well.

"If this (test) happens, there will be a strong statement and a strong answer from the international community," said Schuessel, who holds the EU's rotating presidency. "And Europe will be part of it. There's no doubt."

There was solidarity, too, in pressing Iran to accept a two-week-old offer of incentives in return for a moratorium on uranium enrichment, a process that can produce material for nuclear generators or for weapons. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Tehran will respond in mid-August.

"It seems like an awful long time for a reasonable answer ... It shouldn't take the Iranians that long to analyze what is a reasonable deal," the president said.

Schuessel agreed. "The time is limited," he said. "And I think we should not play with time. ... It's not only time, it's the right moment."

Within an hour of Iran's remarks, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and diplomats from the other five nations offering the Iran incentives had agreed by phone to stick to a deadline of next week for an answer, a U.S. official said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the diplomats' discussions were confidential, said the six nations expect an answer near the time of a meeting of foreign ministers from Group of Eight nations June 29 in Moscow. If Iran does not reply, that meeting would probably become a springboard toward action against Iran in the U.N. Security Council, the official said.

Anticipating a subject of high concern in Europe, Bush raised the detention of about 460 terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The recent suicides of three inmates have intensified international condemnation of the facility and demands for it to be closed.

"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 prisoners are from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Afghanistan.

"There are some who need to be tried in U.S. courts," Bush said. "They're cold-blooded killers. They will murder somebody if they're let out on the street." He said he was waiting for the Supreme Court to decide how they should be tried.

Schuessel welcomed Bush's statement. "We got clear, clear signals and a commitment from the American side no torture, no extraordinary or extraterritorial positions to deal with the terrorists," he said. "All the legal rights must be preserved."

Again, Bush asked Europeans to look beyond their anger over the U.S. invasion of Iraq three years ago and support the country's reconstruction.

"People have strong opinions on the subject. But what's past is past, and what's ahead is a hopeful democracy in the Middle East," the president said.