G-8 Countries Warn North Korea, Iran

Moving closer to the Bush administration position, world leaders meeting in France accused North Korea (search) of undermining nonproliferation agreements and also offered their "strongest support" for comprehensive U.N. inspection of Iran (search)'s nuclear program.

A senior administration official, asking not to be identified, said it is the United States' understanding that the declaration also implicitly authorizes the use of force against countries that violate international nonproliferation norms.

It was not clear whether other signatories to the declaration agreed with that interpretation.

The statements were part of a declaration approved at the Evian (search), France, summit of the United States and six other major industrial powers plus Russia. The declaration was titled, "Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction."

President Bush played an active role in deliberations leading up to the declaration.

"We strongly urge North Korea to visibly, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle any nuclear weapons program, a fundamental step to facilitate a comprehensive solution," the declaration said, borrowing Bush administration language.

The administration has said it believes that North Korea's nuclear ambitions can be curbed through diplomacy. It also has said that there are no plans to attack North Korea but that no option has been removed from the table.

The administration has been attempting to engage North Korea in a multilateral negotiation on Korean Peninsula security issues but has made almost no headway.

On Iran, the G-8 countries stopped short of repeating the administration's insistence that Iran is intent on developing nuclear weapons.

It said, "We will not ignore the proliferation implications of Iran's advanced nuclear program," the statement said. "We stress the importance of Iran's full compliance with its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty."

The administration official took encouragement from a reference in the declaration to the "range of tools" available for curbing destructive weapons, including international treaties and inspection agreements.

That same paragraph concluded that "other measures" could also be used if they are necessary and are "in accordance with international law."

The administration official said "other measures" was code for use of force.

But Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien answered "no" when asked whether the resolution set the table for military action against Iran if they are shown to be pursuing nuclear weapons.

"We don't want them to have them," Chretien said. "And if they have them, they have to destroy them. There was no discussion but we think that all the countries involved ... think we can control the situation."

Italy's premier, Silvio Berlusconi, said Bush told him and other G-8 leaders that there was no foundation to speculation that the United States might attack Iran because of its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Another U.S. official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, agreed, saying such speculation "was not warranted."

If the International Atomic Energy Agency finds that Iran has violated its commitments under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it could refer the issue to the U.N. Security Council. The administration believes that Iran is using a nuclear energy program to hide a nuclear weapons program. It says Iran also is attempting to develop uranium-based nuclear weapons.

Iran has denied it is developing nuclear weapons.

French President Jacques Chirac acknowledged during a news conference Friday that Bush had pressed his seven summit colleagues to take a strong stand on the Iranian issue. "But I must say that everyone shares this feeling. Thus our hope is that, through diplomacy, we can get Iran to accept controls," Chirac said.

The administration official said the United States has been trying to persuade Moscow that its support for a nuclear reactor under construction at Bushehr was giving Iran the means to produce nuclear weapons.

The administration effort produced scant results but the Russian position seemed to undergo a marked change following Bush's weekend meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin seemed to respond to Bush's meeting with him, the official said. He said that the Russian delegation at Evian pushed for stronger language on Iran during the debate over the non-proliferation statement.

"The Russians have come a long way on Iran," the official said. "It shows the cumulative effect of two years worth of efforts."