The President continues to talk negotiations with Iran but seems to be setting up the talks for failure by his refusal to join the talks and put something on the table. -- After all, if the Iranians are developing nuclear weapons, it is because of their fear of Israel and the United States. -- Only the U.S. can offer security guarantees that are meaningful. -- Similarly, only the U.S. can remove the most restrictive sanctions from the free exercise of trade with Iran. -- The diplomatic dance is like the one before the Iraq invasion. -- It is hard not to conclude that the Administration is staying out of the European negotiations so they will fail and the U.S. can then appeal the Iran question to the U.N. where China and others will veto any resolution. -- The U.S. will then be able to claim the U.N. is irrelevant and that it has "no choice" but to bomb to keep the "terrorist Iranian state" from acquiring nuclear weapons....

By Elisabeth Bumiller

New York Times
February 24, 2005

WEISBADEN, Germany -- President Bush said today that he and the Germans, British and French had discussed a series of negotiating tactics to try to get Iran to give up its suspected nuclear weapons program, but he gave no indication that the United States would directly join the talks and declared that Iran, not the White House, should be blamed for any lack of progress.

"The reason we're having these discussions is because they were caught enriching uranium after they had signed a treaty saying they wouldn't enrich uranium," Mr. Bush said in the southern city of Mainz on the banks of the Rhine. "They're the party that needs to be held into account, not us."

Mr. Bush made his remarks at a joint news conference with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany on the third day of a four-day trip to Europe to repair relationships ruptured after the war with Iraq. One of the most bitter splits was with Mr. Schröder, who campaigned for re-election in 2002 on what many in the White House considered an anti-Bush, anti-American platform.

But on Mr. Bush's first trip to Germany since the Iraq invasion, the two sought to present a unified front in their goal of pressuring Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

"We absolutely agree that Iran must say no to any kind of nuclear weapon, full stop," Mr. Schröder said at the news conference in the Electoral Palace, a reconstructed German Renaissance museum that was once the 17th home of the archbishop of Mainz.

Mr. Bush, echoing the chancellor, said it was "vital that the Iranians hear the world speak with one voice that they shouldn't have a nuclear weapon."

Underneath the warm public words lay the tense reality that Mr. Bush did not give Mr. Schröder or the French and British what they have repeatedly sought: direct American participation in the talks with Iran.

European officials say the negotiations with Iran in Vienna are at an impasse, and they have become increasingly vocal in saying that the talks will fail without the Americans at the table. But the White House is skeptical of the European approach, which is to offer economic and political incentives to Iran to try to get the country to drop its nuclear program.

Mr. Bush, when asked directly at the news conference if he thought such incentives would work, side-stepped the question and instead pushed the theme of togetherness that has been the public face of his trip this week to Belgium, Germany and Slovakia.

The president did not give voice to what Europeans say is a real reason for his reluctance: his staunch opposition to rewarding bad behavior by having the world's superpower turn up at the same negotiating table as a nation he considers a rogue.

But Mr. Bush sought to soothe growing fears in Europe that Iran would become the next battleground for the United States.

"You know, yesterday I was asked about the U.S. position, and I said all options are on the table," Mr. Bush said, referring to comments he made at the European Union in Brussels, and which he has made repeatedly to emphasize that he never rules out the possibility of a military attack. "That's part of our position. But I also reminded people that diplomacy is just beginning. Iran is not Iraq."

It was unclear what new "tactics" in negotiating Mr. Bush was referring to, or whether he was merely papering over the disagreements with a face-saving gesture for the Europeans. After the news conference, Steven J. Hadley, the national security adviser, would tell reporters only that "there was a lot of discussion about where we go from here."

Mr. Hadley said that there had been discussions about "should there be a mix of carrots and sticks, and who should the carrots come from and what should they be" and that "the president has really got to go back and think about it, quite frankly."

A senior Bush administration official who briefed reporters on Air Force One this morning did not appear warm to one recent idea, put forth by Mr. Schröder, that the Europeans offer to sell the Iranians spare Airbus parts for their civil aviation fleet.

"This is something the Europeans have discussed," the official said. "They've discussed a number of things that they think we all ought to consider with respect to Iran."

Mr. Schröder said he and Mr. Bush had also discussed other issues on which they disagree, most notably the Kyoto Treaty on global warming, which Europeans support and the United States opposes.

"The Kyoto Protocol was not appreciated by everybody, and that is something that has continued to exist," Mr. Schröder said. "But I would like to emphasize that, despite that, we would like to see practical cooperation with the reduction of problems in this area."

Mr. Bush said that "I assured the chancellor that the United States cares about the quality of our air, obviously," and that the two countries should share research and technology that would improve the environment.

Later in the day, Mr. Bush traveled to the nearby Wiesbaden Army Airfield to speak to American troops. He then left for Bratislava, Slovakia, for meetings with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Thursday.