German minister: Meeting on Iran to show int'l resolve

Rice says all sides committed to new resolution, but there is not yet a consensus on what should be in it.

AhMADinejad 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
AhMADinejad 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
A meeting Tuesday of six key powers in Berlin on Iran's nuclear program will show Teheran that it has not yet eliminated international concerns, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said. The meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin brings together the foreign ministers of the five permanent UN Security Council members - the US, Britain, France, Russia and China - plus Germany, as well as European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana. France has said it expects a quick agreement on a new draft UN resolution to increase pressure on Teheran, but US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said issues remain. Steinmeier, in an interview Tuesday morning on Germany's ARD television, said he could not say if the meeting would include a resolution on possible new sanctions, but it was important that all six nations were coming together. "I am very confident that we will come to a result that will show Iran once again that our concerns are not eliminated, and the resolve of the international community of states - including Russia and China - remains," he said. The meeting comes in the wake of last month's US intelligence assessment that Teheran stopped active work on a nuclear weapons program in 2003. That appeared to stiffen resistance from veto-wielding Russia and China to a quick and harsh third round of sanctions over Iran's defiance of international demands that it suspend uranium enrichment. Steinmeier said the intelligence assessment could be seen both positively and negatively: showing not only that the program had been ended, but also concluding that Iran had been working on a weapons program. "The question remains: how far along were the Iranians?" he said. "For that we need the IAEA in Vienna." Western nations have stressed the need to keep up the pressure; and a senior French diplomat said before the meeting that an agreement on a draft resolution was very close. The diplomat, who briefed reporters in Paris on condition that he not be identified by name, said an agreement should be finalized by the ministers at Tuesday's meeting. He would not give details on the resolution, but said it would be "very balanced, very firm" and likely be presented to the Security Council for debate by the end of the month. "We are really very close," he said. But on the plane from Washington to Berlin, Rice told reporters that while all sides are committed to a new resolution, there was not yet a consensus on what should be in it. "I think that the political directors have made some good progress, but it's my understanding that there's still some way to go," she said. "I know there are still some gaps to close." Iran insists it never had a nuclear weapons program and that its work is for peaceful purposes such as energy production. Francois Gere, an Iran specialist and head of the French Institute of Strategic Analysis, said he was "a little skeptical" that a third resolution would gain Russian and Chinese approval so quickly. He suggested the French announcement could be a pressure tactic ahead of Tuesday's talks. France pushed vocally late last year for tough new sanctions and "does not want to give the impression of pulling back now," Gere said. On Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said that Washington and the other Western powers would not succeed in efforts to halt Iran's nuclear program. "They are looking for excuses," he said. "This will not bear fruit and will mostly work against them, and we will continue our constructive cooperation with the (International Atomic Energy) agency," the UN nuclear watchdog. Earlier in January, IAEA director Mohammed Elbaradei visited Teheran, and Iran agreed to answer all remaining questions over its nuclear activities in the next few weeks. Iran's nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, will be in Brussels on Wednesday to talk at the European Parliament, but the EU's Solana said that, as yet, they have no plans to meet. "I have to see if that is a real use of my time, for me to meet him," Solana told reporters on Monday. "We may find some time to meet."