New round of talks on Iran's nuclear program to be held in Germany

Foreign ministers from the five UN Security Council permanent member nations, plus Germany, will meet in Berlin.

merkel and ElBaradei 88 (photo credit: )
merkel and ElBaradei 88
(photo credit: )
Foreign ministers from the five UN Security Council permanent member nations, plus Germany, will meet in Berlin in Thursday for talks about Iran's nuclear program. Talks in New York aimed at drafting a Security Council statement on Tehran's nuclear enrichment program have stalled. The diplomats' meeting in Berlin would seek to push the process forward, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told reporters in London on Monday. In Berlin, Germany's Foreign Ministry confirmed the plans for the meeting. In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the meeting will take place regardless of whether the members agree on a statement. "The focus will be on the medium- to long-term issues about how to get Iran back into ... the mainstream of the nonproliferation framework, and how to get it to roll back its nuclear program," McCormack said. Although US officials said the meeting is meant to examine possible next steps beyond the statement Washington wants, McCormack would not say whether there are other options on the table now. One possibility is a strong Security Council resolution, which would force Russia's and China's hands. "Right now we're working on the presidential statement. That's where the focus of our energies is," he said. John Bolton, who is the US ambassador to the United Nations, and others worked over the weekend but could not agree on the document. "We obviously haven't come to a consensus on language yet, else I would be up here reporting to you that we have a presidential statement," McCormack said. Britain, France, the United States, Russia, China and Germany have been trying to agree on a statement that would express the Security Council's worries about the Iranian program. Russia and China have opposed tough language calling on Tehran to return to a freeze of uranium enrichment. Tehran says it only wants to build nuclear power plants for civilian use, but Britain, the United States and other nations fear Iran hopes to build a nuclear bomb. Britain, France and Germany broke off more than two years of talks with Iran in January, saying there was no point in continuing to negotiate after Tehran said it would restart its uranium enrichment program. Washington and its European allies successfully pressed the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to refer Iran to the Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions. British diplomats say the Western countries will not seek sanctions now, but hope the council will be able to exert pressure on Tehran and persuade it to halt its nuclear work. Russia was initially reluctant to back referring Iran to the Security Council. Moscow has invested millions in Iranian power plants. Russian President Vladimir Putin had pushed a compromise proposal under which Russia would have enriched nuclear fuel for Iran, but it went nowhere. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit northwestern England with Straw on Friday and Saturday, and Straw has said that he and Rice would make speeches together on foreign policy during the trip.