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Germany

German Foreign Minister Debuts in Egypt

Although his trip to the Middle-East was cut short before it even began, German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier used what time he had in Egypt to raise the issue of Iran's nuclear program.

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The Iranian nuclear program topped Steinmeier's Cairo agenda

Steinmeier made it quite clear to his host nation that Germany, France and Britain, who have held two years of talks with Teheran based on suspicions that its nuclear program is not for peaceful means, are still keen to find a diplomatic solution to the dispute.

Simultaneously, the foreign minister said he believes the time has come to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council, but he rejected the idea that such a move would further alienate Teheran.

Iran, Atomkraftwerk, Natanz

Iran broke seals on uranium enrichment equipment last week

"Approaching the Security Council does not mean that we are trying to provoke an escalation of the situation, and take it to a point of no return," Steinmeier told the Deutsche Welle in Cairo. "The European Union's negotiation mandate has reached its limits and further diplomatic efforts should now be conducted from under one roof. I see no alternative."

And although Steinmeier conceded that Cairo is skeptical about the step to the UN, which could mean sanctions for Iran, he said he was pleased to see that the Arab world shared European concerns over nuclear weapons.

"We all believe that the risk of nuclear armament in the Middle East cannot be borne and that we have to make every effort to ensure that it does not happen," he said.

Hopes for n ew impetus i n peace process

In talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Steinmeier also discussed the instability in Iraq and the situation in the Middle East. The foreign minister thanked Mubarak for Egypt's role in preparations for parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories.

Ägypten Frank-Walter Steinmeier bei Hosni Mubarak

Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak

"We hope that the election results both in Israel and the Palestinian territories will generate a new impetus for the peace process," Steinmeier said, adding that in withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, Israel had created "new room for substantial progress" in the peace process, to which both Germany and the EU were committed.

Steinmeier had originally been scheduled to travel on from Egypt to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan, but had to scrap those plans in order to be back in Berlin on Friday, where he will participate in a debate on the role of German intelligence agents stationed in Baghdad during the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. At that time, Steinmeier was responsible for overseeing intelligence activities for then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who was fiercely opposed to the war.

The foreign minister says he will reschedule his missed visits as soon as possible.

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