Iran General NewsObama team, EU sharpen tone toward Iran

Obama team, EU sharpen tone toward Iran

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ImageAFP: The United States and European allies sharpened their tone Tuesday toward Iran even if the Obama administration still holds the door open to diplomatic engagement with the Islamic republic.

ImageWASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States and European allies sharpened their tone Tuesday toward Iran even if the Obama administration still holds the door open to diplomatic engagement with the Islamic republic.

Just two weeks in office, President Barack Obama's administration took a firm line toward Iran's nuclear and missile programs, and planned to raise the issues at talks in Germany on Wednesday with European allies, Russia and China.

The White House, which has ordered a review of US policy toward Tehran, pledged that the United States will use "all elements of our national power to deal with Iran" after Tehran said it had launched a satellite into orbit.

The message from White House press secretary Robert Gibbs left open the possibility that the United States would consider using military force against Tehran to make it toe the international line.

"This action does not convince us that Iran is acting responsibly to advance stability or security in the region," Gibbs told reporters when asked if the satellite launch undermined Obama's desire to open talks with Iran.

The West suspects Iran of secretly trying to build an atomic bomb and fears the technology used to launch a space rocket could be diverted to developing long-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

"Efforts to develop missile delivery capability, efforts to continue on an illicit nuclear program, or threats that Iran makes toward Israel and its sponsorship of terror are of acute concern to this administration," Gibbs said.

Meanwhile, Obama's Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned "there must be consequences" if Iran fails to respect UN resolutions demanding a halt to its uranium enrichment activities.

As Clinton welcomed German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier for talks here, she added that the United States and Germany must cooperate in getting Iran to comply with its international obligations.

Steinmeier said: "It is very important we work together."

If Iran's reports of the launch were correct it would be a "worrying development and a disturbing sign," Steinmeier warned after arriving in Washington.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he discussed Iran when he met with Clinton earlier Tuesday.

In London, British Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell said the satellite launch "sends the wrong signal to the international community which has already passed five successive UN Security Council resolutions on Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile program."

Clinton's talks with her European counterparts come before top envoys from the United States, Britain, Germany, France, China and Russia meet Wednesday in Germany for the first time since she took office on January 22.

State Department acting spokesman Robert Wood said the permanent five members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany would take up the questions of Iran's nuclear program and ballistic missiles.

Russia and China have resisted US-led efforts for even deeper sanctions on Iran, which is already under three sets of UN sanctions.

In Moscow, the Russian foreign ministry said Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov vowed to boost bilateral ties in telephone talks, but did not elaborate.

US-Russian ties plummeted under the previous US administration of George W. Bush, which infuriated Moscow with its plans to deploy an anti-missile shield in eastern Europe.

Washington argues the shield will deter a ballistic missile threat from rogue states like Iran, but Moscow calls it a strategic threat to Russia.

US officials say ideas raised at the talks in Germany will contribute to the review on Iran conducted by the administration, which wants to take a new tack on Iran from the Bush administration by engaging with leadership in Tehran.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed skepticism about the chances of success for US engagement with Iran.

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