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Germany

German Foreign Minister to Meet Clinton in Washington

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to discuss Afghanistan and Iran with her German and British counterparts in Washington on Tuesday in her first high-profile meetings since taking office.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Clinton, who took office two weeks ago, welcomes her first major international allies on Tuesday

US State Department acting spokesman Robert Wood said on Monday that Clinton was likely to bring up Afghanistan and Iran in the two separate meetings with Britain's David Miliband and Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

"I expect these will be very, very substantive meetings, and she (Clinton) looks forward to meeting with her counterparts from the UK and Germany," Wood told reporters.

"I think Iran is certainly going to be up there near the top" of the agenda, Wood said. "I think Iran and Afghanistan will certainly be there," he said, adding Afghanistan is "central to this administration's foreign policy."

Obama makes Afghanistan a priority

New US President Barack Obama has singled out Afghanistan as his main front in the war on terrorism and plans to deploy 30,000 more US troops there over the next 18 months. He has also indicated he will press the US' allies to deepen their involvement in Afghanistan and raise their troop numbers.

Germany, which decided last year to increase to 4,500 the number of troops it has in Afghanistan, has balked at the idea of sending more soldiers to a mission which remains hugely unpopular at home.

Iran's Bushehr nuclear facility

Obama's shift on Iran has stirred hopes of a breakthrough in some quarters

The meetings between Clinton and her UK and German counterparts come a day before the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- plus Germany meet in Berlin on Wednesday to discuss Iran's nuclear enrichment program.

In a major reversal of US foreign policy, Obama has said he is willing to pursue diplomacy and open direct talks with Tehran to help curb its nuclear ambitions. Germany has cautiously welcomed the new tack.

Steinmeier wants progress on disarmament

A spokesman for the German foreign ministry said on Monday that Steinmeier would talk to Clinton about a "broad range of trans-atlantic issues."

In an article for the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Steinmeier said he hoped to press Clinton to take swift steps towards global disarmament, adding that he believed there was an opportunity for "a new era" to overcome nuclear challenges.

The German foreign minister said he expected the new US government to reject former President Bush's plans to deploy a controversial nuclear missile shield in eastern Europe. "After years of blockade by President George Bush," Steinmeier said he hoped that there would finally be movement toward disarmament.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Steinmeier is hopeful the new US administration will boost nuclear non-proliferation

Steinmeier added that he planned to invite high-level experts to a summit Berlin in June to debate how to salvage the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty which Russia has pulled out of.

The German foreign ministry said the Steinmeier-Clinton meeting would also touch on the global financial crisis, energy security as well as the planned closure of Guantanamo Bay and a possible acceptance of detainees by Germany.

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