Merkel raises Iran sanctions in UAE talks

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel called in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday for the United Arab Emirates to exert its influence to encourage a nuclear-free Iran and held talks on Middle East peace efforts.

"When we look at the regional situation and the situation of the UAE, we can see how strong the interest for a peaceful solution in the Near East is, but also for an Iran that does not look for nuclear weapons," she told reporters.

"Gulf countries and in particular the UAE play an important role in the peace process in the Middle East and of course in relation with Iran," the German leader said.

Merkel said her country and the UAE "share the same interests in terms of security and are working very closely together in this area."

Germany's secretary of state for the economy, Bernd Pfaffenbach, told AFP that Iran figured prominently in a meeting between Merkel and the Emirati president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan.

The UAE has influence in the region that Germany hopes will encourage Iran, which faces a fourth round of UN sanctions, to abandon its controversial nuclear programme, he said.

"We are strongly supporting the United Nations and we also hope very much that Iran will change course" and abandon its defiance of UN resolutions to halt uranium enrichment, he said.

"If that happens, there is a good chance that this will lead to a rapprochement," said Pfaffenbach. Otherwise, "we will support the sanctions that the UN are deciding."

Merkel arrived on Monday in the Emirati capital at the start of a four-nation tour of Arab states neighbouring Iran in the Gulf. She was to travel on to Saudi Arabia later on Tuesday.

© 2010 AFP

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