Iran Nuclear NewsMerkel will stress support for Bush over Iran's nuclear...

Merkel will stress support for Bush over Iran’s nuclear program

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Bloomberg: German Chancellor Angela Merkel will use a visit to the U.S. starting today to stress that her government stands united with President George W. Bush in efforts to halt Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program. May 3 (Bloomberg) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel will use a visit to the U.S. starting today to stress that her government stands united with President George W. Bush in efforts to halt Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.

Merkel, 51, will address the annual meeting of the American Jewish Committee in Washington tomorrow. She’ll express in “clear terms” that international consensus on action is the “right approach” to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms, Karsten Voigt, the German Foreign Ministry’s adviser on U.S. relations, said in an interview yesterday.

“Germany is already playing an integral role in the Iran diplomacy,” said Voigt, 65. Merkel’s meeting with Bush “is important for the course of action and should help clarify the next steps.”

Merkel, who took office in November, is making her second U.S. visit in less than four months as she attempts to improve relations, which hit a post-World War II low under her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder. Merkel’s stress on unity with Bush contrasts with Schroeder’s refusal to support the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Nicholas Burns, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, said yesterday that the United Nations Security Council is preparing a “stiff message” for Iran on its nuclear program. Iran said the same day that it had enriched uranium to 4.8 percent, more than previously announced.

“The Security Council has no option now but to proceed under Chapter 7” of the UN Charter, Burns said at a news conference in Paris. Chapter 7 provides for measures up to the “use of armed force” for non-compliance with UN resolutions.

Deadline Ignored

Iran ignored an April 28 deadline set by the Security Council for the Islamic Republic to halt its nuclear program. The U.S. suspects Iran plans to build a bomb, while Iran says the aim is to generate electricity.

Closer ties with the U.S. may help Merkel to “re-establish Germany as a cooperative power in world affairs,” said Andreas Etges, a foreign-policy lecturer at Berlin’s Free University.

With Germany assuming the presidencies of the 25-nation European Union and the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations next year, the U.S. is looking to Merkel “as a key player” in Europe, said Constanze Stelzenmueller, director of the Berlin branch of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

That’s partly because the governments of France, Italy and the U.K. are “hamstrung” by political uncertainty, she said, noting Italian Prime Minister-elect Romano Prodi’s thin majority, next year’s presidential election in France, and a lack of clarity over when U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair will step down.

`Great Opportunities’

“Germany has somewhat been pushed into the lead in Europe,” Stelzenmueller said. “This implies great opportunities for Merkel, something that hasn’t escaped Bush.”

The U.S. may turn “more strongly” to Germany for assistance on developing its future ties with Russia, Etges said, noting that President Vladimir Putin has been “reluctant” to pressure North Korea and Iran not to develop nuclear arms.

“The U.S. is growing concerned that Russia’s energy development will further boost Moscow’s assertiveness in foreign affairs,” Etges said. “With its good historic ties to Moscow, there’s a lot Germany can do.”

Merkel is still committed to Germany taking a permanent seat on the Security Council, even though she won’t raise the matter during the visit, said an aide who requested anonymity.

During her two-day visit, Merkel will meet Bush at 5:15 p.m. today.

A meeting with business representatives including executives of Monsanto Co., General Electric Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Siemens AG tomorrow in New York will be followed by discussions at the American Council on Germany.

Back in Washington, Merkel will then join Bush and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to speak at the American Jewish Committee’s 100th annual meeting before returning to Berlin.

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