Bush Hails Progress in Six-Party Talks

By David McKeeby
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - President Bush February 14 hailed the six-party agreement on North Korea’s nuclear program as a victory for multilateral diplomacy.

“The best diplomacy is diplomacy in which there is more than one voice,” Bush told reporters during a February 14 press conference.  “And so we had a breakthrough as a result of other voices than the United States saying to the North Koreans, ‘we don't support your nuclear weapons program and we urge you to get rid of it in a verifiable way.’”

The agreement, announced in Beijing February 13 by diplomats from China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, North Korea and the United States, calls on North Korea to shut down its main nuclear reactor complex at Yongbyon and allow international inspectors to verify the process as a first step toward disclosing and dismantling its entire nuclear infrastructure.  In exchange, North Korea will receive international economic, humanitarian and energy assistance.  (See related article.)     

As North Korea fulfills its obligations to shut down its nuclear programs, Bush pledged, the United States would meet its commitments to deliver aid, particularly food assistance, for the people of North Korea. 

“It is a good first step,” Bush said.  “There's a lot of work to be done to make sure that the commitment is made and this agreement becomes a reality.  But I believe it's an important step in the right direction.”


The press conference occurred as Iraqi and coalition forces began implementing a new strategy to secure Baghdad, Iraq, and the surrounding capital region.  Doing so, Bush said, would provide Iraq’s democratically elected leaders with “political breathing space” to continue necessary reforms and allow its people to live in peace.

“We can help the Iraqis secure their capital so that people have a sense of normalcy,” Bush said.  “People want to live in peace … they want to grow up in a peaceful environment, and the decision I made is going to help the Iraqi government do that.”

Bush said that earlier in the day he had been briefed by General David Petraeus, the newly appointed commander of coalition forces, who said that the Baghdad security plan was beginning to take shape.  Three Iraqi brigades are arriving in Baghdad to reinforce existing units and additional coalition units also are moving into the area on schedule.  (See related article.) 

Together, Bush said, these troops would clear neighborhoods of violent elements, establish regular patrols to keep them from returning, then work with local leaders to identify and fund projects to rebuild their communities. 

But, Bush added, “A successful security strategy in Baghdad requires more than just military action.”  To this end, Bush said that military commanders would be given more flexibility to fund local construction projects and that the United States was accelerating efforts to deploy civilian provincial reconstruction teams into Iraq.  (See related article.)

Improved security would further accelerate Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s progress moving the country toward political reconciliation after decades of tyranny, the president said.  But securing Baghdad will take time, Bush said, and predicted continued violence.  


Among the many perpetrators of violence in Iraq, Bush expressed particular concern about the al-Quds Force, a division of neighboring Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, which U.S. intelligence indicates is working undercover in Iraq to deliver sophisticated bomb components to militants targeting Iraqi civilians and coalition forces.  (See related article.)

“I can say with certainty that the al-Quds Force, a part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated IEDs [improvised explosive devices] that have harmed our troops,” Bush said.

The United States, Bush said, has a comprehensive strategy to deal with Iran, encompassing both its destabilizing role in Iraq as well as its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.  But, as in North Korea, multilateral diplomacy is key to resolving tensions with Iran, according to the president.

“I believe an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be very dangerous for world peace and have worked with other nations of like mind,” Bush said.  “And it turns out there's a lot of countries in the world that agree with that assessment,” as seen by ongoing international diplomacy and a U.N. Security Council’s Chapter 7 sanctions against Iran in December 2006.  (See related article.)

A transcript of Bush’s remarks, as well as a video link to the press conference, is available on the White House Web site.