Reuters: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday she and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao agreed at talks in Beijing that Iran should not have nuclear weapons capability. By Claudia Kade
BEIJING, May 22 (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday she and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao agreed at talks in Beijing that Iran should not have nuclear weapons capability.
Western powers have been at odds with China and Russia over how to halt Iran’s atomic programmes, which the West believes is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.
“We talked about Iran and both agreed Iran should not have the capability to make nuclear weapons and shouldn’t proliferate weapons of mass destruction,” Merkel told reporters on her first visit to China as chancellor.
“We agreed that Iran should not be allowed to gain possession of nuclear weapons.”
Beijing has been opposed to tougher measures like sanctions against Iran to force it to stop its research and trying to forge a consensus on the issue is seen as one of the goals of Merkel’s trip.
The weekly magazine Der Spiegel cited unnamed German officials in its latest edition as saying that some in Berlin would like to break the deadlock with Iran by allowing it to engage in uranium enrichment research, a view also held by the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s chief Mohamed ElBaradei.
“Some Germans have this view. But we will not break ranks with the EU3 and the Americans,” a German official told Reuters, referring to the European Union powers of Britain, France and Germany.
“We want to keep as unified a front as possible, preferably one that includes the Russians and Chinese,” said the official, who declined to be named.
But as she tried to make breakthroughs with China on Iran, Merkel also raised the tricky issue of human rights.
“I have made it clear that human rights are indivisible,” she told reporters.
There was a growing willingness to talk about the issue but also differences of opinion, said Merkel, who in opposition was critical of efforts to scrap a European Union ban on arms sales to Beijing.
In a departure from China’s usually stern protocol, Merkel’s visit got off to a relaxed start with an early morning walk in the park with Wen, who dressed casually in an open shirt, followed by a Chinese breakfast together.
The walk, during which Merkel chatted with locals doing tai chi morning exercises and Wen kicked around a shuttlecock, was at Wen’s personal invitation, a German official said, after China expressed regret she did not visit sooner after taking over as chancellor six months ago.
(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau in Berlin)