iran nuke plant 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Germany's defense minister said in an interview released Saturday that he is hopeful of a diplomatic solution to the impasse over Iran's nuclear program, but argued that "all options" should remain open.
Asked by the Bild am Sonntag weekly whether the threat of a military solution should remain in place, Franz Josef Jung was quoted as saying: "Yes, we need all options."
"But absolutely everything must first be tried to reach a good result by diplomatic means," Jung added. "I am confident that there will be a diplomatic solution in the case of Iran."
Germany, France and Britain have led European efforts to address concerns that Iran might seek to develop nuclear weapons - worries that Tehran insists are unfounded.
After Iran broke UN seals at a uranium enrichment plant and said it was resuming nuclear research after a two-year freeze, the three nations on Jan. 12 said talks were at a dead end and called for Iran's referral to the UN Security Council.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Tehran might still agree to Moscow's offer to move its uranium enrichment program to Russia, a step backed by the United States and Europeans as a way to resolve the deadlock.
On Saturday, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported that Iran has declared itself willing to talk about the Russian offer, with one condition: that China, another powerful ally, also participate.
The magazine, which cited no sources, said the message from Iran's foreign minister was passed by Egyptian officials to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier when he visited Cairo on Thursday.
The German Foreign Ministry declined to comment. Diplomats familiar with the case in Vienna, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with the media, said they had no knowledge of such a message.
Egyptian diplomatic officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks, said they told the Germans that the Russians and Chinese should be given more time to convince the Iranians on the enrichment issue. The officials said they were not speaking for the Iranians.
In the Bild am Sonntag interview, Jung was asked whether the use of nuclear weapons could be ruled out - a reference to French President Jacques Chirac's declaration that nuclear arms could be used as a response to a state terrorist attack.
"We should not lead the discussion in this direction," he replied, stressing again the need to seek a diplomatic solution to the Iran crisis along with the United States, Russia and China.
Chirac mentioned no specific countries, but Germany's opposition has criticized his statement as being unhelpful in the Iranian crisis.