Bush Wins Europe's Backing on Iran

LONDON -- U.S. President George W. Bush won Europe's backing on Monday for tighter sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program and secured a British pledge to send more troops to Afghanistan.

After talks with Bush on the last day of the president's farewell tour through Europe, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said European states would agree to impose financial sanctions on Tehran.

"So today, Britain will urge Europe and Europe will agree to take further sanctions against Iran," he told a news conference. "First of all we will take action today that will freeze the overseas assets of the biggest bank in Iran, the bank Melli."

Iran has ignored calls to stop enriching uranium, a process that can be used to make nuclear weapons, and says its nuclear program is intended only for civilian purposes.

Tehran again ruled out suspending enrichment on Saturday, ignoring political and economic incentives put forward by six world powers including the United States and Britain.

"We will do everything possible to maintain the dialogue, but we are also clear that if Iran continues to ignore united resolutions and continues to ignores our offers of partnership, we have no choice but to intensify sanctions," Brown said.

European foreign ministers were due to discuss Iran at a meeting in Luxembourg.

A British Foreign Office spokesman said London, its EU partners and Washington were discussing a range of additional sanctions, including in the oil and gas sector.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana was due to brief the ministers after visiting Iran at the weekend, when he said he expected a formal reply soon on the incentives package,

A senior member of Iran's parliament, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, has said Tehran is in no hurry.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have all offered Bush support for efforts to prevent Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil producer, obtaining nuclear weapons.

"The free world has an obligation to work together, in concert, to prevent the Iranians from having the know-how to develop a nuclear weapon," Bush told reporters after the talks. "Now's the time to work together to get it done."

The three UN sanctions resolutions imposed so far on Iran have been relatively limited in scope -- including targeting individuals, some firms with military links and several banks.

Bush has sought to increase pressure on Iran in what is meant to be a farewell tour, although he hinted he may return before he leaves office in January.

Brown and Bush highlighted their common views on issues such as Darfur, Myanmar and aid to impoverished areas including Africa.

Brown said he would send more forces to bolster the 52,000 NATO-led troops in Afghanistan, which commanders say are still under-resourced and struggle to hold areas captured from Taliban insurgents.

Britain, a troop contributor to the NATO force fighting Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents, already has about 7,800 troops in Afghanistan, mostly in Helmand.