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Bush rules out bilateral talks with N Korea
Financial Times
By Caroline Daniel in Chicago
July 7, 2006

President George W. Bush ruled out bilateral talks with North Korea on Friday, saying that the US would respond to Pyongyang's long-range missile tests through the United Nations Security Council.

Mr Bush admitted that the diplomatic route could be "slow and cumbersome" but said he was "not going to get caught in a trap of sitting at a table alone with North Korea". He added: "What matters most of all is for Kim Jong Il to see the world speak with one voice."

It was best to "go to the UN Security Council and say here's some red lines", Mr Bush said. "If you handle it bilaterally you run out of options quickly."

If Mr Kim "wants to have good relations with the world, he has to verifiably get rid of his weapons programmes'', he said.

Mr Bush was speaking in Chicago, at the Museum of Science and Industry, as part of a new White House strategy to host its news conferences outside Washington. Taking the press conferences on the road was supposed to encourage discussion of a broader range of domestic issues. However, Friday's conference was still dominated by concerns on North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

On Iran, Mr Bush said next week's meeting of the Group of Eight industrialised nations in St Petersburg provided an opportunity for "those of us concerned about the issue to make it clear to the Iranians we are firm in making sure they do not have nuclear weapons".

But he acknowledged differences remained over imposing sanctions on Iran, which Russia and China have resisted.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia "understands the dangers of Iran having a nuclear weapon", he said. However, "some countries have got economic interests as a focus. We think national security interests trump economic interests."

Asked about his falling opinion polls, and whether Republican candidates were shying away from public events with him, he said: "I'm looking forward to these elections. I think you'll be surprised."

Laying out some of the themes of the forthcoming mid-term campaign – national security and the economy – he predicted: "We will hold the House and Senate. I will spend a lot of time on the road. I like campaigning . . . you win elections by believing in yourself and having a plan to protect the American people from terrorist attacks."

Mr Bush added he would "abide by the decision" of the Supreme Court last week ruling against the holding of military commissions to try detainees at Guantánamo Bay. However, he noted that the court had been "silent on whether or not we should have used Guantánamo [to detain illegal combatants]".

Mr Bush was defensive on his foreign policy and denied that North Korea's continued pursuit of nuclear weapons meant that the US administration's policy was not working.

"What have we done? We have got the six-party talks going," he said, referring to stalled negotiations with Pyongyang.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006

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