Saturday, March 11, 2006

Germany's Steinmeier Urges Diplomacy in Iran Standoff

New York Times:
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions and urged Tehran to cooperate. The comments, issued on Saturday, followed days of tense rhetoric between Iran and the West, after a leading Iranian security official said Iran could inflict ``harm and pain'' if the UN Security Council imposed any penalties on Iran.

"Iranian politicians and diplomats threaten consequences if the world community sticks to its demand that Tehran stop all activities that allow it to get an atom bomb,'' he said in a guest article for Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper released by the paper ahead of publication.

"We must not allow ourselves to be dragged into saber-rattling. This is the hour of diplomacy,'' he said.

On Friday, U.S. President George Bush called Iran a "grave national security concern'' and said Washington would work with its partners to resolve the issue diplomatically.

The Security Council has begun examining the situation over Iran after the U.N. nuclear watchdog sent the 15 members a report on Wednesday saying it could not verify that Iran's nuclear activities were peaceful.

The council, which has the power to impose sanctions on Iran, is considered unlikely to do so soon but Steinmeier urged Tehran to accept the world community's demands.

"The United Nations Security Council will send an unmistakable message to Tehran next week that the world community stands united against Iran's dangerous nuclear ambitions,'' he said. READ MORE

"I call on the Iranian leadership to accept this message,'' he said. ``My appeal to Tehran is this. Only cooperation with the world community will open the way to a good future.''

Western powers including the European Union and the United States are concerned that Iran wants to build nuclear weapons and say Tehran has failed to provide credible guarantees that its nuclear program serves only peaceful purposes.

The Iranians deny aiming to develop an atom bomb but reject what they call Western bullying over the issue and say they have the right to develop nuclear technology.

Steinmeier also repeated condemnation of comments by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling for Israel to be ``wiped off the map'' and expressing doubt that six million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War Two.

"It is completely unacceptable for the leading representative of Iran to call Israel's right to exist into question,'' he said.