Iran must give up its nuclear program and start cooperation with other nations, President Bush said Tuesday during his visit to Slovenia.
Slovenia, which chairs the European Union until August, was the first stop on Bush’s valedictory trip to the old continent. “I’m looking forward to meeting with our friends and allies. We’ve got strong relations in Europe, and this trip will help solidify those relations,” the president said on Monday.
But transatlantic affairs were only a small part of the talks that the American president held with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Bush used his last meeting with the European Union officials to work out a common policy towards the volatile Middle East region.
“We spent a lot of time on the Middle East. Besides the Palestinian state, we talked about Lebanon, Iran and Syria. One thing is for certain: If more people lived in free societies in the Middle East, the Middle East would be a more hopeful and more peaceful place,” said the president.
Bush acknowledged that the main threat to world peace came from Iran. He said that by pursuing its nuclear program and refusing foreign experts to visit the facilities, the regime in Tehran made any form of dialog impossible.
“And so we’ve got to continue to work together to make it clear, abundantly clear to them, that it’s their choice to make: They can either face isolation or they can have better relations with all of us if they verifiably suspend their enrichment program,” Bush told reporters.
The US president did not forget to mention Iraq and Afghanistan. At a press conference, he thanked the Europeans for their military and political contribution to the operations in the two countries. According to Bush, Iraq and Afghanistan were now better places.
“It’s amazing how these countries have gone from tyrannical situations to hopeful, young democracies. And I believe it’s in our mutual interest to work hard to help these democracies survive for the sake of peace, and for the sake of human rights and human dignity,” admitted the American leader.
Bush also touched climate change issues. The president praised European efforts to tackle gas emissions in their countries, but reminded that unless China and India – two of the world’s greatest air polluters – joined those attempts, any idea of reducing global warming was impossible.
“I will just tell you that unless China and India are at the table, unless they agree to a goal, unless they agree to firm strategies to achieve that goal, then I don’t see how any international agreement can be effective,” Bush stated.
Referring to visa programs for some European Union members, the US president said it would be a topic of further talks. In his opinion, an agreement satisfying both sides would be reached soon and all EU citizens would be able to travel to the United States without unnecessary problems.
“I understand the visa waiver issue very well. I spend a lot of time talking to people that are worried about not being able to be treated like other members of the EU. I know the problem. We’re on our way to solving it in a way that I think will satisfy countries as well as the EU itself,” said the president.
At a press conference, President Bush was in high spirits. He often inserted small jokes into his answers, keeping his interlocutors and journalists alike smiling for most of the time. When asked how he saw the relations between the United States and European Union from the perspective of eight years, he answered: “Yes, there are problems. On the other hand, there is much more that unites us than divides us. Of course there is going to be problems and differences. That’s normal.”