Germany to Iran: Stop enrichment and we can talk

news42.jpgTehran says any talks must be ‘without preconditions’BERLIN (Reuters) — Germany made clear to Iran on Saturday it must halt uranium enrichment if it wants to negotiate with six world powers on an offer of incentives aimed at resolving the nuclear standoff with the Islamic republic.

Iran said that any talks must be “without preconditions”, suggesting little movement in the two sides’ positions.

“I can only reiterate and urge Iran to implement very quickly a suspension of enrichment to enable negotiations to begin again,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after meeting his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki.

Mottaki, however, appeared to reject any demand that Iran temporarily stop enrichment — a process of purifying uranium for use in nuclear power plants or weapons.

“We welcome negotiations without preconditions,” he said.

Germany and other Western countries suspect that Iran is trying to develop atomic weapons. Tehran says it only wants to harness nuclear technology for peaceful ends.

The six sponsors of the offer of economic and political benefits are Germany along with UN Security Council permanent members France, Britain, the United States, Russia and China.

In exchange for an enrichment suspension, the Security Council powers have agreed to halt work on a resolution that would open the door to political and economic sanctions.

Mottaki described his talks with Steinmeier as constructive but reiterated that the incentives offer had some ambiguities.

“The packaged offer by the six countries is being very seriously examined by Iran. We see very positive points in this offer. There are also naturally unclear points and we will have questions,” he said.

Outside the Berlin villa where the two men met several dozen Iranian exiles from the National Council of Resistance of Iran protested Steinmeier’s decision to meet Mottaki, shouting slogans such as “No nukes to the mullahs”.

Neither minister took questions from reporters.

Iran conflict at ‘decisive phase’

Steinmeier said he hoped European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana would be able to answer all of Tehran’s queries about the offer at a meeting with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani in the coming week.

The United States, Britain, Germany and France have made it clear they want an answer from Iran by the July 15-17 summit of the Group of Eight  nations in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last week Iran would give its answer by August 22, prompting US President George W. Bush to complain that Iran was dragging its feet.

Mottaki gave no indication of when Tehran would respond.

“Immediately after we have examined the offer we will inform our European partners of the result,” he said.

Steinmeier, however, said he wanted an answer “as soon as possible” and that it was up to Iran to resolve the crisis.

“We are at a decisive phase with our efforts: Either the international conflict will continue, which means the process of isolating Iran will also continue, or an opportunity will be found for a new and comprehensive cooperation between Iran and the world community,” he said.

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