Saturday, September 02, 2006

Germany Takes Lead in Pressuring Iran to Return to Talks

Germany urged Iran Saturday to send a signal that it is serious about talks on its suspending some nuclear activities, as pressure builds for sanctions against the Islamic republic.

"We don't want to slam the door but we need a signal from Iran that it is ready to move in our direction," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said ahead of a meeting of European Union foreign ministers. READ MORE

Iran ignored a UN Security Council deadline Thursday to suspend uranium enrichment -- a process used to power a nuclear reactor but which could also be used to fuel an atomic bomb, which many fear Tehran is trying to build.

The United States has begun working toward sanctions, but since Iran offered new talks on its nuclear program, veto-holding Security Council members Russia and China appear to have softened their stance in Tehran's favor.

EU's Solana takes diplomacy to Iran

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana will discuss Iran's offer next week with top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ari Larijani, as the EU continues down the diplomatic road, even though it has had little effect so far.

France's minister for European affairs, Catherine Colonna, also warned that Iran had very little time left to respond positively. When asked by reporters how long Iran would have she said: "See you in a few days."

Iran's offer of new talks has left the EU with a delicate diplomatic balancing act. It must keep the door of dialogue with the Islamic republic open without scaring Tehran off by focusing too much on sanctions at the United Nations.

"The EU and Germany have no interest in seeing an escalation in the coming days and weeks as a result of the consultations at the Security Council," Steinmeier said, in Lappeenranta, southern Finland.

Spanish Foreign Minister Moratinos said that the EU was determined to "go right to the very end with dialogue, to the very end with its diplomatic efforts."

Iranians will never give in

In Iran, meanwhile, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Saturday that his government would stand firm during any negotiations on its nuclear program, which Tehran maintains it has a right to develop for atomic energy.

"The people will not give in by one iota in their desire to use nuclear energy for peaceful ends and officials have the duty to defend these objectives with firmness during negotiations," he said.

But his country's 21-page page offer is said by diplomats to be at best confusing and Solana hopes to "clarify" its meaning during his talks with Larijani at an undisclosed location in Europe early next week.

"I think it's a little disappointing," said Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot. "But we have to see how we can keep in contact because I think that's very important."

"Cutting off all contacts is the worst course for a politician so I keep hoping they will be as wise and as conciliatory as we are," he said.

Solana, who was due to brief the ministers on Iran before their informal talks end Saturday, warned against any firm action on sanctions that might compromise his meeting next week.

On Friday, in a telling sign of the delicate state of affairs, he said: "I don't want to talk about anything before that meeting that is not of a positive nature."