EU-3 foreign ministers to meet over Iran nuclear crisis

11th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

11 January 2006, BERLIN - Foreign ministers from the European Union's so-called big three - France, Germany and Great Britain - are holding crisis talks in Berlin Thursday in a bid to increase the pressure on Tehran over its controversial nuclear programme. Iran's removal earlier this week of U.N. seals on nuclear facilities and its announcement that it would resume research on uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for atomic energy or weapons, has triggered international protests and renewed

11 January 2006

BERLIN - Foreign ministers from the European Union's so-called big three - France, Germany and Great Britain - are holding crisis talks in Berlin Thursday in a bid to increase the pressure on Tehran over its controversial nuclear programme.

Iran's removal earlier this week of U.N. seals on nuclear facilities and its announcement that it would resume research on uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for atomic energy or weapons, has triggered international protests and renewed concerns about Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Speaking to Deutsche-Presse Agentur dpa ahead of the talks, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Wednesday one aim of the meeting was to establish whether there was scope for renewing negotiations with Tehran over the programme.

On Tuesday, Steinmeier, who is to host Thursday's meeting in the German Foreign Office, said by removing the seals of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Tehran had "crossed a line."

Steinmeier is to be joined at the meeting in Berlin by the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy.

The issue is now also likely to be high on the agenda at talks set for Friday between U.S. President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well a meeting next week between Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the build-up to Thursday's E.U. meeting, British Prime Minister Tony Blair called on the U.N. Security Council to consider action against Iran following its moves to resume nuclear fuel research.

Signs of a possible showdown between the international community and Iran over its nuclear programme also come in the wake of fresh political tensions between Tehran and western nations.

This, in particular, follows remarks made by Iran's new hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad questioning the Holocaust and calling for Israel to be destroyed or shifted to western Europe.

France, Germany and Britain have been holding a round of talks with Iran in a bid to convince Tehran to abandon its uranium enrichment and reprocessing programme in exchange for boosting trade.

Also joining Thursday's talks will be the E.U.'s external affairs commissioner Javier Solana.

The ministers then want to telephone U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to convey the conclusions of the meeting.

This could include a "recommendation" for further action or moves to draw up a report to the United Nations' Security Council.

Washington has already warned Iran that the decision to break the seals could result in the Security Council taking action against Tehran.

While warning that transferring the conflict over Iran's nuclear programme to the U.N. could result in an escalation of tensions, a senior German Foreign Office official, Gernot Erler, said Wednesday he could not rule out such a step being made.

A spokesman for the German Foreign Office said that Steinmeier had also telephoned his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to discuss the growing crisis over Iran.

Negotiations between Moscow and Iran over the possibility of enriching uranium in Russia broke down on the weekend.

The E.U. believes that cancellation of planned special talks with Tehran set down for January 18 are a consequence of Iran's action.

The crisis over Iran is also to the subject of a special meeting this month of the IAEA board of governors, who can hand over the conflict to the U.N. Security Council.

DPA

Subject: German news

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