White House

Bush, Sarkozy united on Iran, Pakistan

WASHINGTON — President Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy presented a united front against a nuclear Iran and the crisis in Pakistan on Wednesday, highlighting a repaired Franco-American relationship that had been frayed by Paris' opposition to the Iraq war.

Bush said Iran's quest to obtain nuclear technology dominated his talks with Sarkozy, who addressed a joint session of Congress before joining Bush on a tour of President George Washington's nearby Virginia home, Mount Vernon.

With Bush by his side, Sarkozy said it's "unacceptable that Iran should have, at any point, a nuclear weapon," though he added that Iran is entitled to have civilian nuclear energy.

Bush echoed Sarkozy's sentiments on an armed Iran, saying: "The idea of Iran having a nuclear weapon is dangerous."

While Iran acknowledges that it's building a nuclear program to promote civilian energy production, it denies it's seeking nuclear weapons capacity, and experts in and out of the U.S. government say there's no conclusive evidence that Tehran has an active nuclear weapons program. Fear that it may be is at the center of tensions between Iran and much of the world.

Last month the White House issued a new string of sanctions against Iran targeting the nation's Revolutionary Guard Corps, the elite Quds Force, several top military officials and three major Iranian banks.

Sarkozy said that he believes in the effectiveness of sanctions against Iran, even doubling them if necessary. But he added that stern action against Iran must be supplemented with diplomacy.

"But in my mind, the two go together," Sarkozy told reporters. "In other words, the outstretched hand of dialogue, of continuing discussions, because Iran deserves a better fate than isolation."

Bush responded in kind: "And therefore now is the time for us to work together to diplomatically solve this problem, and I want to thank the French president for his resolve on solving this issue peacefully."

Bush and Sarkozy also stood shoulder to shoulder regarding the crisis in Pakistan. Both urged Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to hold democratic elections and shed his military uniform.

Bush told reporters that he spoke to Musharraf before meeting with Sarkozy at Mount Vernon.

"And my message was that we believe strongly in elections, and that you ought to have elections soon, and you need to take off your uniform," Bush said. "You can't be president and the head of the military at the same time. So I had a very frank discussion with him."

Sarkozy called the situation in Pakistan "worrisome."

"Let me remind you that this is a country of 150 million inhabitants who happens to have nuclear weapons," he said. "This is very important for us, that one day we shouldn't wake up with a government, an administration in Pakistan, which is in the hands of extremists ..."