(AFP) - US President George W. Bush leaves for the Group of Eight summit in Russia later this week hoping to get some help for pounding diplomatic headaches over weapons programs in Iran and North Korea.
With China invited to join seven major industrialized democracies plus Russia at the weekend summit in Saint Petersburg, Bush will come face-to-face with many of Washington's key partners in both protracted disputes.
He was to hold bilateral talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his host, and was to see Chinese President Hu Jintao - both of whom have resisted US-backed calls to punish North Korea over a seven-missile barrage.
Both are also involved in efforts, led by the United States, Britain, France and Germany, to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear arms. Tehran denies its civilian atomic program hides a weapons quest.
"The G8 will be an opportunity for those of us involved with this issue to make it clear to the Iranians that we're firm in our resolve for them not to have a nuclear weapon," Bush said at a press conference in Chicago on Friday.
The US president suggested that part of his job at the summit would be to press US partners in both diplomatic disputes to see past their "economic interests" and take a harder line.
"Some nations are more comfortable with sanctions than other nations. And part of the issue we face in some of these countries is that they've got economic interests," he said.
"And part of our objective is to make sure that national security interests, security-of-the-world interests, trump economic interests. And sometimes that takes a while to get people focused in the right direction," he said.
US officials declined to predict specific action on either front at the G8, saying there were too many variables in either dispute to say much more than it was a "safe bet" that leaders in Saint Petersburg would discuss the disputes.
It was unclear whether and when the UN Security Council would vote on a resolution pushing for sanctions on North Korea.
And US officials hope -- despite Iran's denials -- that Tehran would have a firm answer by the date the summit starts on July 15 to a Western proposal aimed at ensuring the Islamic Republic does not get nuclear weapons.
Bush courted Hu and Putin's support on North Korea by telephone on Thursday, but the White House said he had not directly broached the issue of sanctions and confirmed that there was not yet a "unified front" on the way forward.
"They're also going to see each other in Saint Petersburg next week, so my guess is that there will be more intense dialogue," White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters.
Bush, who will meet with Putin before the broader summit gets underway and with Hu on the sidelines of the G8, also hopes that the assembled countries will agree on a joint statement on both standoffs.
Putin told Bush by telephone Thursday "that nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula now will be part of the G8 discussions" and that he hoped to work through the G8 and the UN Security Council "to develop a unified approach and message on the issue," said Snow.
The United States has been pleading for patience with diplomatic efforts to rally its partners in six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons programs -- China, Japan, Russia and South Korea -- and speak with "one voice" on the missile crisis.
At the same time, Bush has rejected any new concessions to Pyongyang and warned that he has "other options" beyond diplomacy.