Reuters: Germany will prepare possible further sanctions against Iran in the coming weeks if there is no change in Tehran's stance on its disputed nuclear program, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday.
By Allyn Fisher-Ilan
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany will prepare possible further sanctions against Iran in the coming weeks if there is no change in Tehran's stance on its disputed nuclear program, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday.
Six world powers, including Germany, discussed the prospects for further sanctions over Iran's nuclear work in New York on Saturday but China made clear it opposed more punitive action, at least for now.
Western nations suspect the Islamic Republic will use its atomic technology to develop a nuclear bomb but Tehran says the work is aimed only at generating electricity. It has rebuffed international pressure to halt nuclear fuel enrichment or send its enriched uranium stockpile abroad for refinement.
"Germany has made clear that if Iran's reaction does not change, we will be working on a comprehensive package of sanctions," Merkel said at a joint news conference in Berlin with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Of course we would prefer it if these (sanctions) could be agreed within the framework of the United Nations Security Council," she said, adding that officials would be working to that end in the coming weeks.
"But Germany will take part in sanctions with other countries that are pursuing the same goal," she said.
Netanyahu went further, saying the time had come to apply "crippling sanctions" against Iran over its nuclear program.
"If we don't apply sanctions, crippling sanctions against this Iranian tyranny, when shall we apply them? If not now, when? The answer is now," he said.
Israel, assumed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, sees Iran's project as a threat to its existence, citing hostile rhetoric against the Jewish state by Iranian leaders.
It has not ruled out using force if diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions fail to stop Iran's nuclear plans.
Earlier, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran had exchanged messages with major powers on its nuclear energy program and saw signs of progress.
"There have been ongoing negotiations and messages are being exchanged so we have to just wait. There are some minor signs indicating a realistic approach, so any probable developments or progress can be discussed later," Mottaki said in Tehran.
Western diplomats said that whenever it has faced a serious prospect of new sanctions, Iran has begun lobbying key powers and made an appearance of offering concessions.
"The credible threat of further pressure does create some leverage over the Iranian system," one diplomat involved in the talks about sanctions said.
Merkel also urged Israelis and Palestinians to get back to the negotiating table and resume peace talks. Netanyahu said Israel had no preconditions.
"We must stop talking about talks about peace and start talking about peace," said Netanyahu.
President Barack Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell is due to launch a fresh round of mediation talks in the region in the coming days in hopes of renewing negotiations stalled since December 2008.
Netanyahu also said Israel did not need international troops to help with the demilitarization of Palestinian areas in the event of a future deal to establish a Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank.
After the Nazi Holocaust, Germany became a major provider of aid to Israel and remains among its staunchest allies, although Berlin has recently joined wider European criticism of some Israeli policy, especially on settlement building.
(Additional reporting by Erik Kirschbaum and Sarah Marsh; writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Paul Taylor)