German Legislator Suggests Dialogue, Delay on Iran Sanctions

The United States should delay "for some time" any U.N. Security Council action on Iran and talk directly to Tehran about its security concerns, a leading German legislator said Monday.

"We have time to be patient," Ruprecht Polenz, chairman of the international relations committee of the German Bundestag, said before meetings with Undersecretary of State Nichols Burns and Elliott Abrams, a National Security Council staffer. He said Iran is five to 10 years away from building a bomb.

In the meantime, he said, Russia could explore expressions of renewed interest by Iran in joint enrichment of uranium on Russian territory. The Russian proposal has U.S. and European support as a way to make sure Iran does not use enriched uranium for weapons development.

Nor, he said, would it be "a bad idea" for the Board of Governors of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency to resume its review of Iran's nuclear activities.

By contrast, a State Department spokesman was skeptical that Iran really was interested in the Russian proposal. "One day they will say there is a deal and the other day they will say there is no deal, and then they will say there is one — only on their terms," spokesman Adam Ereli said.

Mohamed elBaradei, head of the watchdog group, is due to report to the Security Council by the end of the week on Iran's nuclear activities, which Iran says are entirely peaceful in purpose.

The Bush administration intends to use that expected critical report as a springboard to Council economic or political sanctions on Iran. But Burns last week acknowledged there was no agreement among Council members on strategy.

Next week, U.S., British, French, Chinese, Russian and German officials will meet "to consider the next steps that we should take in response to what we expect to be a negative report," Ereli said.,

Last month, the Council called on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment-related activities and to resume negotiations with the European Union.

Polenz said that U.N. sanctions usually do not work. The only success, he said, was in pressuring South Africa to end its apartheid policy.

Polenz, who will go to Iran next week for three days of talks with Iranian officials, said U.S. participation in negotiations was essential.

"We will only have success with the pressure of the United States," he said. "I have been trying to convince my American friends in the last eight to 10 years to have a better relationship with Iran."