Reuters: Germany said on Wednesday Iran had to prove to the international community it does not have an atomic weapons programme and reiterated its demand that Tehran halt all sensitive nuclear activities.
By Louis Charbonneau
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany said on Wednesday Iran had to prove to the international community it does not have an atomic weapons programme and reiterated its demand that Tehran halt all sensitive nuclear activities.
Speaking ahead of Thursday’s meeting in Berlin of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Tehran needed to restore confidence by freezing its uranium enrichment programme.
“Iran must erase all doubts about a possible military use of its nuclear programme,” Steinmeier told a session of the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament.
Iran says it only wants peaceful nuclear energy and refuses to halt enrichment work, which can produce fuel for power stations or bombs. The West believes it plans to build weapons.
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told reporters in Paris it did not appear that the sole purpose of Iran’s programme, parts of which Tehran concealed from U.N. inspectors for nearly two decades, was the production of electricity.
“I want to say here that we think that Iran has the right to a civilian nuclear programme,” he said. “A civilian nuclear programme does not explain the programme that it has today.”
Iran’s resumption of enrichment — a process that could produce fuel for atomic power plants or bombs — prompted the EU in January to break off 2-1/2 years of talks with Iran and to back a U.S. demand to refer the Iranian nuclear dossier to the U.N. Security Council, which can impose sanctions.
Steinmeier did not rule out a resumption of talks with the Islamic republic, though he said Iran would have to show it was ready to take the negotiations seriously.
STRIVING FOR CONSENSUS
Steinmeier’s spokesman explained at a government news conference that the demand for suspension of enrichment had been made by the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N.’s Vienna-based nuclear watchdog.
“We are ready to return to negotiations on the condition that Iran fulfills the IAEA’s demand for a long-term, verifiable suspension of all enrichment and enrichment-related activities,” Martin Jaeger said.
The foreign ministers of the “EU3” — Britain, France and Germany — and Russia and the United States will attend Thursday’s meeting, he said, along with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. China was sending a deputy foreign minister.
“The goal of the meeting is to reach a common position that will be expressed in a text of a ‘presidential statement’ of the U.N. Security Council drafted by the participants,” Jaeger said.
Diplomats in New York said the five permanent Council members are close to a deal and hope for approval of a new draft statement when the full council meets on Wednesday.
Britain and France, backed by the United States, distributed a revised text late on Tuesday to all 15 Security Council members that makes concessions to Russia and China. It still calls on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment efforts.
(Additional reporting by Anna Willard and Jon Boyle in Paris and Evelyn Leopold at the United Nations)