ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
A pair of nuclear trouble spots were at the top of the agenda today as President Bush met with leaders of the European Union in Vienna. Iran has not responded to a proposal to stop uranium enrichment activities in exchange for economic benefits. North Korea, meanwhile, is boycotting negotiations aimed at ending its nuclear weapons program.
NPR's Don Gonyea reports.
DON GONYEA reporting:
On the topic of Iran, the U.S. and European Union spoke with one voice today that Tehran must not have the capability to build a nuclear weapon. Iran has been in talks with Britain, Germany and France and the U.S. has agreed to join those negotiations if Iran agrees to stop enriching uranium. Iran has been mulling that offer for weeks now and today said it would have an answer by late August. At a news conference, President Bush expressed frustration when asked about that date.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: The August 22 date, is that part of your question? Yeah. It seems like an awful long time for a reasonable answer, for a reasonable proposal. A long time for an answer. And we look forward to working with our partners. We just got word of this statement as we walked in here but it shouldn't take the Iranians that long to analyze what is a reasonable deal.
GONYEA: Meanwhile Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, who is the current president of the European Union, said Iran seems to be trying to drag this out. On North Korea, President Bush rejected a call for the government in Pyongyang to have one-on-one negotiations with the U.S. over nuclear weapons it's believed to already have. The latest problem regarding North Korea is an expected long-range missile test. President Bush is taking a hard line and he was backed by the EU's president, Schüssel.
Chancellor WOLFGANG SCHÜSSEL (President, European Union): If this happens there will be a strong statement and a strong answer from the international community and Europe will be part of it.
GONYEA: President Bush.
President BUSH: And so we've been working with partners, particularly in that part of the world, to say to the North Koreans that this is not the way you conduct business in the world. This is not the way that peaceful nations conduct their affairs.
GONYEA: The subject of the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay also came up in Vienna. Europeans have long been critical of the camp because of what they see as human rights abuses. President Bush's position is that Guantanamo should be closed at some point, but he says some of the detainees need to have trials and the Supreme Court has yet to rule on the proper venue. Plus, the President said, it's difficult to send those not being tried back to their home countries.
President BUSH: And I explained to the two leaders here, our desire is to send them back. Of course, there's international pressure not to send them back. But hopefully we'll be able to resolve that when they go back to their own country.
GONYEA: Still, EU officials insisted that detainees should be tried or released. Chancellor Schüssel told the president that there can be no victory against terrorism if common European and American values are undermined.
Chancellor SCHÜSSEL: There can never be a victory, a credible victory over terrorists if we give up our values, democracy, rule of law, individual rights.
GONYEA: The White House says no new ground was broken on this issue. At one point in the news conference, President Bush was asked about a new poll by the Pew Research Center that found that Europeans see U.S. involvement in Iraq as more of a danger than Iran's nuclear program.
President BUSH: That's absurd. That's my statement. The United States is, we'll defend ourselves but at the same times we're actively working with our partners to spread peace and democracy. And so whoever says that is, it's an absurd statement.
GONYEA: To that Chancellor Schüssel added a defense of Mr. Bush, stating that Austrians need not look very far to see how the U.S. has worked to spread freedom. He noted that he was born in 1945, the year World War II ended, and asked where would Europe be today without the participation of America?
Don Gonyea, NPR News, Vienna.
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