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Bush to focus on W Asia democracy at UN

Iran's nuclear ambitions are also expected to be a key issue at the 192-nation General Assembly session.

india Updated: Sep 18, 2006 14:23 IST

President George W Bush heads to New York on Monday for the UN General Assembly where he will focus on shoring up democracies in the Middle East, where sectarian violence in Iraq and Iran's nuclear ambitions have created international concern.

Iran's nuclear ambitions are expected to be a key issue at the 192-nation General Assembly session after Tehran ignored an August 31 UN deadline for suspending its nuclear program.

The United States is pressing for UN sanctions against Iran, but Russia, China and some European countries are hesitant about imposing such penalties.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is scheduled to address the General Assembly on Tuesday, was expected to lobby for Iran's right to develop nuclear programs for peaceful power generation.

Bush, who also speaks before the United Nations on Tuesday, will focus his remarks on moving democracy forward in the Middle East and helping strengthen democracies in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.

"He'll have in each case -- Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority -- I think he will have very concrete suggestions about the path forward for realising his vision of freedom and the role that the international community can play in that," an administration official said on condition of anonymity last week.

Bush was also expected to discuss concerns about Iran, Sudan, Lebanon and Israeli-Palestinian issues in bilateral meetings with French President Jacques Chirac and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Bush said last week that part of his objective in New York was to make the point that Iran should not be allowed to stall on the nuclear issue.

"We need to move the process, and they need to understand we're firm in our commitment, and if they try to drag their feet or get us to look the other way, that we won't do that -- that we're firmly committed in our desire to send a common signal to the Iranian regime," Bush said on Friday.

The Bush administration said there would be no contacts with Iranians at the United Nations.

"We don't have contacts with the Iranians, and we're not going to have it, unless and until they suspend their enrichment-related activities," an administration official, who declined to be identified, said last week.

The General Assembly session, which occurs yearly, includes representatives from each member country and is due to last about two weeks.

Bush will hold bilateral meetings on Monday with the prime minister of Malaysia and the presidents of El Salvador, Honduras and Tanzania to highlight established and emerging democracies.

He was scheduled to meet with the president of Iraq on Tuesday.

First Published: Sep 18, 2006 12:08 IST