Reuters: Germany urged the United States on Saturday to back EU diplomacy on Iran to stop it acquiring nuclear weapons, while Tehran expressed optimism about reaching a deal with the Europeans. “I expressly encourage the U.S. government to actively support the diplomatic efforts of the Europeans,” German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in a speech delivered by his defence minister to the Munich Security Conference. Reuters
By Mark Trevelyan, Security Correspondent
MUNICH, Germany – Germany urged the United States on Saturday to back EU diplomacy on Iran to stop it acquiring nuclear weapons, while Tehran expressed optimism about reaching a deal with the Europeans.
“I expressly encourage the U.S. government to actively support the diplomatic efforts of the Europeans,” German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in a speech delivered by his defence minister to the Munich Security Conference.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said in Munich that if talks with Iran failed, the issue “will go to New York” — a reference to the United Nations Security Council which could decide to punish Iran with sanctions.
Iran denies U.S. charges that its nuclear energy programme is a cover for developing atomic weapons. France, Germany and Britain, conducting negotiations on behalf of the European Union, have been encouraging Iran to drop its nuclear fuel programme in return for economic incentives.
The comments from Schroeder and Solana came in the same week that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Europe to send Tehran a stronger message, emphasising it faced referral to the Security Council.
Some Iranian officials have said Tehran, which has cultivated ties with permanent, veto-wielding members Russia and China, need not fear being hauled before the world body.
But top security official Hassan Rohani took a different line in comments quoted by Hamshahri newspaper.
If Iran’s case was referred to the Council, “the probability of those countries using their veto right is very low,” he said.
In Munich, influential U.S. Republican Senator John McCain said Washington must “vigorously support European leadership” on the Iranian issue.
But he told reporters: “There also has to be some commitment if those (EU-Iran) talks fail, that we go to the U.N. for sanctions.”
With the United States refusing to rule out any option over Iran, including military force, some Europeans fear a repeat of the damaging rift over the Iraq war two years ago.
U.S. invasion plans were strongly opposed by France, Germany and Russia and split the Security Council, creating trans-Atlantic scars that are still healing.
But Rohani held out little hope that major powers would back Iran against Washington’s wishes in the Security Council.
“The Russians, Germans and French acted against the United States over Iraq and did not let the case be discussed at the Security Council. But today, all three are trying to get close to America,” he told a gathering of students.
Senior nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian was quoted on state television as saying the European stance in negotiations to date was encouraging.
“The three EU countries appeared more serious in this round of negotiations compared with before and progress is being made,” he said of talks that took place in Geneva this week.
“If the Europeans continue this seriously in the next two rounds, talks will continue and there is a possibility of an agreement after three months,” he was quoted as saying.
Deputy Iranian Foreign Minister Gholamali Khoshroo said in Munich that a Middle East arms race could only hurt Tehran by diverting precious resources.
“In the prevailing international climate, developing nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction not only does not enhance Iran’s security but in fact would prove detrimental to our long-term security and prosperity,” he said.