Bush warns Iran, calls for more NATO troops in Afghanistan

CRAWFORD, Texas (AFP) — US President George W. Bush on Saturday warned his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to “stop exporting terror” ahead of the Iranian leader’s historic visit to Iraq.

Bush, at a press conference at his Texas ranch with visiting Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said while Iraq needed to hold talks with its neighbor it should make clear to Tehran it must stop arming Iraqi militias.

He said that “the message needs to be ‘quit sending in sophisticated equipment that’s killing our citizens.'”

Bush said his message for Ahmadinejad was “stop exporting terror.”

The United States has accused Iran of supplying Iraq insurgents with bombs used to attack US soldiers and is increasingly concerned over Tehran’s influence in the Shiite-majority country.

Ahmadinejad hopes his groundbreaking visit to Iraq on Sunday will mark a major step in bolstering ties between Iran and its conflict-torn western neighbor, marking a new chapter after a devastating eight-year war in the 1980s.

Bush spoke after a two day summit with the Danish prime minister focusing on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, telling reporters he would lobby NATO members to offer more troops to the mission in Afghanistan.

“My administration has made it abundantly clear we expect people to carry a heavy burden if they are going to be in Afghanistan,” Bush said.

The US president said he understood “there are certain political constraints on certain countries” but said he planned to press for more NATO troop contributions at a major summit in Bucharest in April.

“And so I am going to go to Bucharest with the notion that we are thankful for the contributions being made, and encourage people to contribute more,” said Bush.

Rasmussen backed military action in Iraq and Afghanistan with Danish troops despite opposition to the conflicts in his country and other parts of Europe.

Some 550 Danes are serving in Afghanistan where most are deployed under British command in the volatile southern Helmand province.

The US administration has been pressing its allies to commit more troops to Afghanistan, but many countries face fierce opposition at home and will only allow their forces to be deployed for training missions — not for combat in the south.

Bush on Friday held talks in Washington with NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer about Afghanistan, which is facing a fierce resurgency by the Islamic Taliban militia and their Al-Qaeda allies.

Bush meanwhile vowed to maintain international pressure on Iran to halt its disputed nuclear program, which, he charges, hides a bid to build an atomic bomb. Tehran insists its nuclear work is solely aimed at generating electricity.

The US leader said “the international community is serious about continuing to isolate Iran until they come clean about their nuclear weapons ambitions. That’s why there will be action in the United Nations here early next week.”

The UN Security Council is expected to adopt on Monday a third set of sanctions against Iran over its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment work.

Iran and the United States held three rounds of talks over the security of Iraq last year despite mounting tensions over the Iranian nuclear program. The two foes have had no diplomatic relations since 1980.

Bush also refused to speculate as to whether more US troops would be pulled out of Iraq after July saying the decision would be made by his top military leaders.

The Washington Post speculated Saturday that the Bush administration would withdraw more US forces from the country before he leaves office in January 2009.

But Bush said his decision “is going to be based on the recommendations” of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and US military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, as well as the joint chiefs-of-staff.

“We’re not going to let politics drive my decision, again,” Bush said,

A senior administration official, who asked not to be named, said the administration was “not ruling anything in or out” on US troop levels.

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