Bloomberg: Diplomats from six nations discussed how to keep Iran from building nuclear weapons in the first meeting on the issue since President Barack Obama took office and offered Iran talks “without preconditions.”
By Tony Czuczka
Feb. 4 (Bloomberg) — Diplomats from six nations discussed how to keep Iran from building nuclear weapons in the first meeting on the issue since President Barack Obama took office and offered Iran talks “without preconditions.”
U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns and foreign ministry officials from China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany met today in Wiesbaden, Germany, near Frankfurt, to review their strategy toward Iran, a German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.
Iran said yesterday it launched its first domestically made satellite, prompting U.S., French and British statements of concern about Iran’s efforts to develop ballistic missile technology. Leaders of Germany and France said they may back new sanctions if diplomacy fails to halt “the Iranian threat.”
“We will not permit an Iranian nuclear bomb because this would threaten world peace,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a joint article published today in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. “We favor a diplomatic solution.”
Obama has shifted U.S. policy since taking office on Jan. 20, saying he supports “tough and direct diplomacy with Iran without preconditions” and will “use the power of American diplomacy to pressure Iran to stop their illicit nuclear program, support for terrorism and threats toward Israel.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that “if Tehran does not comply with United Nations Security Council and IAEA mandates, there must be consequences.”
She spoke after talks in Washington with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has urged Iran to take up Obama’s offer of dialogue. Steinmeier said the satellite launch underscored Iran’s “technical capabilities” and the need of the six powers to work together.
The U.S. and some allies, including Israel, say Iran is seeking to develop nuclear arms. Iran says its uranium enrichment program only aims to produce fuel for nuclear power plants to meet the country’s growing electricity demand.
Iran, the second-largest oil producer in the Middle East, is under three sets of UN sanctions after the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, sent the dispute to the Security Council in March 2006.
The Bush administration ruled out talks with Iran unless the country ended uranium enrichment work within its nuclear program.