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Germany

German Foreign Minister to Focus on Iran on US Trip

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier flew to Washington on Monday to discuss the situation in the Middle East with US officials in advance of a trip by Chancellor Angela Merkel in May.

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It is Steinmeier's second trip to the US since he took office late last year

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier flew to Washington on Monday for talks with US counterpart Condoleezza Rice on the Iranian nuclear crisis and the situation in the Middle East.

Steinmeier is also to meet with White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, members of Congress and representatives of various think tanks on a two-day trip planned to pave the way for a US visit by Chancellor Angela Merkel in May.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said the aim of Steinmeier's trip was to "further intensify transatlantic relations" and that the talks with Rice would cover topics including Iran, the Middle East, Belarus and Balkans.

The meeting is expected to cover the possibility of direct talks between Washington and Tehran, which the US government has said would be limited to the situation in Iraq.

The visit is Steinmeier's second since he went to Washington in late November, soon after taking office.

Berlin meeting a mixed success

Rice was in Berlin last Thursday to attend a meeting of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany on the Iranian nuclear program.

Konferenz in Berlin zu Iran Atomprogramm

The Berlin meeting ended in a compromise, not the show of unity many wanted

Ministers of the six countries agreed that Tehran must abandon sensitive nuclear research, one day after the council adopted a non-binding statement urging Iran to halt all uranium enrichment within 30 days.

"This is a strong sign to Iran that negotiation, not confrontation, should be their course," Rice said.

"It is now up to Iran to make a choice ... between isolation brought about by its own actions or a return to the negotiating table," added Steinmeier, the meeting's host.

Not full unity over Iran

Cracks appeared between the major powers in Berlin over how to act if Iran does not comply.

Iran Präsident

Iran's president remains defiant

The UN statement leaves open what consequences might follow if Tehran does not halt uranium enrichment, and Russia and China insisted that economic sanctions or military action did not belong on the table.

The non-binding UN Security Council declaration was seen as a bid to placate Russia and China, which have opposed any hint of punitive measures against Iran, an ally and key trading partner. In a further concession, the co-sponsors extended the deadline to 30 days from the 14 days they had initially sought.

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