Bush: U.S., Europeans speaking with 'one voice' on Iran
Allies seeking to halt Tehran nuclear program
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States and the three European nations leading talks with Iran took new steps Friday aimed at strengthening diplomatic efforts to resolve nuclear concerns -- and the Bush administration said there is newfound unity in that effort.
"I am pleased that we are speaking with one voice with our European friends," President Bush told a crowd in Shreveport, Louisiana. "I look forward to working with our European friends to make it abundantly clear to the Iranian regime that the free world will not tolerate them having a nuclear weapon."
The Bush administration argues Iran is trying to run a covert nuclear weapons program under the guise of a civilian nuclear energy initiative, an accusation Tehran denies.
On Friday, the U.S. government dropped its opposition to Iran's application for membership in the World Trade Organization, a move Europe had pressed for.
That followed an announcement from Britain, France and Germany agreeing to a U.S. demand. The so-called EU-3 said if Iran did not fulfill its international agreements -- including a promise to halt uranium enrichment -- they would support referring the issue to the U.N. Security Council.
"What this does is it brings a common view, a unified message, a unified position of the United States and Europe," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said at a news briefing.
"The point, I think, for Iran is they do have an opportunity. They have an opportunity here if they're willing to take it."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the U.S. move in a written statement.
"In order to support the EU-3's diplomacy, the president has decided that the U.S. will drop its objection to Iran's application to the World Trade Organization and will consider on a case-by-case basis the licensing of spare parts for Iranian civilian aircraft, in particular from the European Union to Iran," the statement said.
"We share the desire of European governments to secure Iran's adherence to its obligations through peaceful and diplomatic means. Today's announcement demonstrates that we are prepared to take practical steps to support European efforts to this end. The spotlight must remain on Iran, and on Iran's obligation to live up to its international commitments."
At a media availability in Washington, Rice said, "The key here was to establish with our European allies a common agenda, a common approach to the issue of getting the Iranians to live up to the international obligations which they have undertaken."
Earlier, the EU-3 foreign ministers -- Michel Barnier, Joschka Fischer, and Jack Straw -- sent a letter to the European Union with an update on talks with Iran.
"While progress is not as fast as we would wish, we believe we are moving in the right direction and that we should have at least preliminary results to show from the negotiations in the period ahead," said the letter, co-signed by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
The letter said Iran must fulfill agreements "to maintain the suspension of all its nuclear enrichment-related and reprocessing activities while long-term arrangements are being negotiated; and to fulfill all of its international commitments including full cooperation with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency)."
If Tehran complied, the situation likely would be resolved within the IAEA Board of Governors, the letter said.
"If on the other hand, despite our efforts Iran does not do so, then as has been implicit in the agreements reached with Iran and well understood by all concerned, we shall have no choice but to support referring Iran's nuclear programme to the U.N. Security Council."
The United States had pushed for that threat.
The U.S. government does not negotiate with Iran, which President Bush in 2002 branded part of the "axis of evil."
The European leaders, in their letter, said they are "united in our determination that Iran should not acquire a nuclear weapons capability" and "remain committed to pursuing all diplomatic means to resolve the outstanding issues through negotiation."
They are offering Iran incentives, including support for energy programs and economic assistance.
The EU-3 said Tehran has called for "political action to reduce Iran's trade deficit with Europe; a reduction in the number of export licenses refused; encouraging European companies to import more from Iran; greater technology transfer; cooperation in energy; and trade and industrial co-operation."
The United States has insisted that any offer of incentives must also include clear consequences if Iran refuses the offer.