Iran, North Korea on Agenda as Bush Meets with EU
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
And I'm Linda Wertheimer. President Bush is pressing Iran to speed up its reply to a package of incentives aimed at getting Tehran to give up its nuclear ambitions. Earlier today, Iran's president said his country will respond to Western proposals by mid-August, a time frame President Bush described as, quote, “An awful long time for an answer.”
President GEORGE W. BUSH: It shouldn't take the Iranians that long to analyze what is a reasonable deal.
WERTHEIMER: The president was speaking at the close of a summit with European leaders in Vienna. NPR's White House correspondent Don Gonyea is traveling with the president. He joins me now. Good morning, Don. Welcome.
DON GONYEA reporting:
Hi, glad to be here.
WERTHEIMER: Don, there does seem to be some frustration with Iran's statement today.
GONYEA: Absolutely. You can hear it in the president's voice. You can hear frustration, you can hear impatience. And we heard it on the part of both the U.S. and the European Union leaders who are here. The U.S. has said that it wants an answer from Iran on this proposal, this package of incentives that have been made within weeks. And the president made it clear today that August doesn't fit that timeline. In fact, there's another summit, the G8 Summit of the world's leading economic powers next month in St. Petersburg, Russia. That's when they had hoped to have an answer from Iran. The E.U. president, Wolfgang Schuessel said Iran needs to seize the moment. He said this is the way forward, and he accused them of trying to drag it out for months. We were told we wouldn't get a big announcement on Iran out of this summit here. We're not getting a big one, but we're getting a strong show of solidarity.
WERTHEIMER: Don, another big issue at the summit was the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, with European leaders calling on the president to close that prison. Let's listen to a little of what the president had to say today.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: They brought up the concern about Guantanamo. And I understand their concerns, but let me explain my position. First, I'd like to end Guantanamo. I'd like it to be over with.
WERTHEIMER: Don, did President Bush give any indication of how the U.S. might end Guantanamo, as he put it?
GONYEA: Right. And by end it, he means close it. He said he's waiting for a legal ruling from the Supreme Court that will determine where and how those that the U.S. feels need to be tried can be tried. But he also said that the U.S. would like to send many of these detainees back to their home countries, and there are problems there. These home countries don't always want them back. And that, he said, is delaying things, and it's significant problem he says they are trying to work out.
WERTHEIMER: What was the response from the Europeans?
GONYEA: Well, they seem pleased with the statement about the president wanting it closed. They did seize on that. But again, this is a huge issue in Europe. There are huge protests just about this very issue. And what they suggested is that maybe some kind of an international organization could be brought in to help speed the process along, and to help get some of these detainees back to their home countries. But again, not a lot of specifics on that.
WERTHEIMER: The president was also asked about North Korea and the possibility that North Korea might test fire a long-range missile. And he talked about international cooperation.
GONYEA: He did, and he said that the U.S. rejects North Korea's efforts to have one-on-one talks with the U.S. The president says it has to be with the U.S. and those five neighboring countries. And he said it should make people nervous when non-transparent regimes who have announced that they have nuclear warheads start talking about firing missiles.
WERTHEIMER: Don, thank you very much.
GONYEA: My pleasure.
WERTHEIMER: NPR's Don Gonyea. He's traveling with the president.