More Talks Over Iran's Nuclear Plans Scheduled

Published March 27, 2006

| Associated Press

Foreign ministers from the five U.N. Security Council permanent members and Germany will meet in Berlin on Thursday for talks about Iran's nuclear program, Britain's foreign secretary said Monday.

Talks in New York aimed at drafting a Security Council statement on Tehran's nuclear enrichment program stalled. The diplomats' meeting in Berlin would seek to push that process forward, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said.

In Berlin, Germany's Foreign Ministry confirmed plans for the meeting.

The United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia have been trying to agree on a statement that would express the Security Council's worries about the Iranian program. Russia is believed to be reluctant to support a statement it considers too strong.

Tehran says it only wants to build nuclear power plants for civilian use, but the United States, Britain and other nations fear Iran wants to build an atomic bomb.

Britain, France and Germany broke off more than two years of talks with Iran in January, saying there was no point in continuing to negotiate after Tehran said it would restart its uranium enrichment program.

Iran has resisted international pressure to give up uranium enrichment, a key process that can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or the material for a nuclear warhead.

Washington and its European allies successfully pressed the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to refer Iran to the Security Council, which has the power to impose economic and political sanctions.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei was in Berlin on Monday for talks with German leaders, including Chancellor Angela Merkel. He said the dispute over Iran was part of a regional security problem that should be addressed in direct talks between the United States and Iran.

He also said "the only way to resolve the Iranian issue is through negotiations."

"A comprehensive package that deals with the whole security issue at the heart of this nuclear problem in Iran needs to be addressed with all concerned parties," ElBaradei said.

British diplomats say the Western countries will not seek sanctions now but hope the council can pressure Tehran and persuade it to halt its nuclear work.

Russia initially was reluctant to support referring Iran to the Security Council. Moscow has invested millions of dollars in Iranian power plants and is building a facility in Bushehr.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had pushed a compromise proposal under which Russia would have enriched nuclear fuel for Iran, but it went nowhere.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit northwestern England with Straw on Friday and Saturday, and Straw has said he and Rice would speak on foreign policy during the trip.

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