By Donna Miles
Dec. 7, 2006 – President Bush said today he welcomes closer coordination with Iraq's regional neighbors to promote peace there, but draws the line when it comes to working with countries like Syria and Iran unless they stop supporting terrorism or defying U.N. resolutions regarding nuclear weapons. Bush, speaking at a White House news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, noted the Iraq Study Group's assertion that Middle Eastern countries have an important responsibility to help Iraq succeed. The president called the suggestion to broaden the compact beyond economic measures "an interesting idea."
But Bush expressed doubt that Iran and Syria could be constructive players in the process.
"One thing is for certain," he said. "If people come to the table to discuss Iraq, they need to come understanding their responsibilities: to not fund terrorists, to help this young democracy survive, to help with the economics of the country.
"If Syria and Iran (are) not committed to that concept, then they shouldn't bother to show up," he added.
Blair said the issue boils down to whether Iran and Syria are "standing up for the right principles, which are endorsed in the United Nations resolutions, in respect of Iraq."
"In other words, you support the democratic-elected government, you do not support sectarians, and you do not support, arm or finance terrorists," the prime minister said.
Bush said both Iran and Syria have decisions to make if they want to engage with the United States. Iran must suspend its nuclear-enrichment program in a verifiable way, he said. Syria must stop trying to destabilize Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's government. It also must stop allowing money and arms to cross its border into Iraq and providing safe haven for terrorist groups.
"These countries have now got the choice to make," the president said. "If they want to sit down at the table with the United States, it's easy. Just make some decisions that will lead to peace, not to conflict."
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