Steinmeier: Middle East cannot develop nuclear weapons

17th January 2008, Comments 0 comments

The dispute over Iran's controversial nuclear programme remains on top of the global political agenda in 2008, with the international community determined to prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.


17th January 2008

Vienna (dpa) - Iran cannot be allowed to develop nuclear weapons technology, Germany's foreign minister said on Thursday in the run-up to a meeting by the six world powers in Berlin next week.

"The international community cannot and will not allow for nuclear weapons technology to be developed in this region," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said ahead of a meeting with the United Nations nuclear watchdog in Vienna.

Steinmeier was briefed in an hour-long meeting with Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),on the results of ElBaradei's most recent trip to Tehran ahead of the meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany to discuss Iran in the German capital next Tuesday.

"In this connection it is important how the director of the IAEA, who had just returned from a visit to Teheran, assesses the situation, especially after the talks in Tehran where he also met with the religious leader," Steinmeier told journalists.

The world powers wanted to know how ElBaradei assessed the options for a solution, the German foreign minister said. ElBaradei met with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran's supreme spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last week.

Iran had agreed to answer all outstanding issues of its nuclear past within the next four weeks.

In a work-plan thrashed out by the IAEA and Iran last summer, Tehran vowed to clear up questions it has failed to answer since the beginning of the IAEA's investigation its nuclear programme in 2003.

A recent assessment by US intelligence organizations concluded that Iran stopped work on a weapons programme in 2003. While these new developments needed to be taken on board, it remained obvious that the problem was not solved, the German foreign minister warned.

Open questions remain that Iran urgently needs to answer in order to regain the confidence lost by the international community, Steinmeier said. Iran denies Western suspicions that it is pursuing nuclear weapons, maintaining its nuclear ambitions are solely geared towards energy-generating purposes.

Germany invited the foreign ministers of the UN Security Council member states to talks in Berlin on a third UN sanctions resolution to pressure Iran on its nuclear programme aimed at showing unity against Iran.

"We will meet in Berlin in a few days with the permanent members of the Security Council and discuss how the unity displayed by the international community can be shown in the future as well," Steinmeier said.

He expected next week's meeting to be "substantial", Steinmeier said after a brief meeting with his Austrian counterpart, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik.

Germany previously stressed that a new resolution against Iran was necessary, as the country continued to ignore Security Council demands to halt its uranium enrichment drive and was thereby violating international law.

China and Russia are reluctant to join into a new round of sanctions. China on Thursday urged both Iran and the West to display more flexibility - for Iran to adhere to relevant Security Council resolutions and for the West to increase the diplomatic push to overcome the deadlock.

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeid Jalili travelled to China on Thursday to gain Chinese support against further sanctions. "Certain countries have used various pretexts and unfounded accusations to transfer the Iranian nuclear dossier to the Security Council under false pretences and unfounded accusations.

But today the inconsistency of their accusations has become clear from their own reports," Jalili was quoted as saying by Iranian media upon arrival in Beijing.

The west offers a package of political and economic incentives to Iran, should the country agree to mothball enrichment. Enriched uranium serves as a basis for nuclear fuel, but, if enriched to a higher degree, it can be employed to build nuclear weapons.



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