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G-8 Countries Talk Tough on North Korea, Iran

The Group of Eight (search) industrial nations has put North Korea and Iran on notice that they will not stand by and let them acquire nuclear weapons, although there were differences over whether the declaration endorsed the possible use of force.

A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States reads the leaders' declaration as implicitly authorizing the use of force against countries that violate international nonproliferation norms.

The United States alleges that Iran is developing a clandestine nuclear weapons program. The Bush administration has been trying to persuade Moscow that its support for a nuclear reactor (search) under construction at Bushehr was giving Iran the means to produce nuclear weapons.

In Tehran, Iranian state radio blamed the United States Tuesday for the G-8 warning. Iran denies it is developing nuclear weapons.

A senior member of the Russian delegation told reporters Tuesday that Iran "must remove any doubts of its compliance" with the nonproliferation treaty by the June 16 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (search) board of governors.

The leaders want Iran to sign a protocol allowing inspections of all suspected nuclear sites any time, the official said, on condition of anonymity. IAEA inspectors are due in Iran this month.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would continue to cooperate with Iran but he added that "we will insist that all Iranian problems in the nuclear sphere are under the aegis of the IAEA."

Other G-8 leaders insisted that the summit declaration on nonproliferation did not endorse the use of military force should Iraq fail to meet its commitments on the transparency of its nuclear program.

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien answered "no" when asked whether the declaration would allow military action should Iran be shown to be pursuing nuclear weapons.

French President Jacques Chirac said problems with Iran must be resolved with diplomacy.

"There never was any talk of using force against anyone," Chirac said. "We wish to have with Iran the necessary dialogue so they accept the international constraints of the IAEA which allows the containing the dangerous development of military nuclear technology."

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said all participants at the summit had ruled out the use of force. Italy's premier, Silvio Berlusconi, said Bush told him and other G-8 leaders that speculation about a U.S. attack against Iran because of its suspected nuclear programs "doesn't have any foundation."

Now that the G-8 leaders have put disagreements over Iraq aside, Iran's nuclear aspirations and Washington's firm intention to halt them could lead to new disagreements.

Arriving at a hawkish interpretation, the U.S. official took encouragement from a reference in the declaration to the "range of tools" available for curbing destructive weapons, including international treaties and inspections.

That same paragraph concluded that "other measures" could be used if they were necessary and "in accordance with international law." The administration official said "other measures" was code for use of force.

The G-8 leaders said a combination of destructive weapons and governments considered potential exporters of terror constitute the biggest threat to global security.

They said efforts by North Korea's hard-line communist government to produce enriched uranium and plutonium, both usable for nuclear weapons, undermine agreements to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction -- moving their position closer to that of President Bush.

"We strongly urge North Korea to visibly, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle any nuclear weapons programs," said the declaration.

Chretien said there was a great deal of focus on North Korea, but that the G-8 leaders did not have a "very clear answer" on what to do.

The Bush administration, which was active in deliberations leading to the declaration, has said it believes that North Korea's nuclear ambitions can be curbed through diplomacy. It also has said there are no plans to attack North Korea, but no option has been ruled out.