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Germany

Germany Worried by Iran's Nuclear Activity

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has said he is concerned about Tehran's latest decision to go ahead with a threat to resume production of nuclear enrichment activity.

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Iran's top nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani wants to negotiate.

Expressing "great concern" over reports that Iran had flouted the international community's warnings and was once again building centrifuges that could be used to make weapons-grade uranium, Fischer on Wednesday cautioned the country against making a "miscalculation."

Under a landmark deal brokered in October with Europe's "Big Three" of Britain, France and Germany, Iran agreed to suspend sensitive uranium enrichment programs, stop making centrifuges, allow tougher inspections and file a complete declaration of its nuclear activities

Since then, experts from the United Nation's nuclear watchdog have discovered omissions in Iran's reporting on its atomic energy program, inspection visits have been delayed and the government has backed away from a pledge to stop all enrichment-related efforts -- a process of purifying uranium for use as fuel for nuclear power plants or weapons.

Questionable activity

Several weeks ago the agreement unraveled even further, when Tehran broke seals placed on enrichment equipment by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and threatened to resume the manufacture and assembly of centrifuges, diplomats said Tuesday.

Another intelligence report being circulated by diplomats this week alleges that Iranian officials were caught negotiating with a Russian company over the procurement of a substance that can boost nuclear explosions in atomic weapons.

Iran has denied that it is developing nuclear arms, and has said that its nuclear program is solely intended for peaceful purposes. At the same time, officials in Tehran accuse Britain, France and Germany of reneging on last year's deal by pushing for a tough new UN resolution which rebukes the country for failing to cooperate with the IAEA.

The door is still open

"The news reaching us from the IAEA gives cause for great concern over whether the leadership in Iran ... is not making a miscalculation," Fischer said Wednesday in an interview with private German news channel N-TV.

The foreign minister said Iran should understand that the current action is "not the right path to go down" and that it is in the interest of "peace and stability in the region to continue on the path, through the door that we opened."

"I do not want to give up hope," he added.

Ahead of a meeting scheduled for Thursday in Paris between the foreign ministers of Germany, Britain and France and Iranian officials, Fischer stressed that the Europeans "have held exactly to what we agreed."

A French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said French, German and British officials were ready to negotiate with Tehran. "It is in this context that discussions continue with the Iranian authorities, with a view to providing all guarantees on the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program," she said.

Late last month, Iran's top nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani said his country should continue talks with the European trio over its nuclear program.

Averting a crisis

While the IAEA has found many instances where Iran concealed potentially weapons-related activities, the UN organization says it has no clear evidence that Tehran is trying to build a bomb.

The United States says there is sufficient proof and has accused the international agency of acting too cautiously. Washington accuses Tehran of using its civilian atomic energy program to mask development of nuclear weapons and wants the UN Security Council to take up the issue and possibly impose sanctions.

Europe has been working closely with Iran to persuade it to cooperate fully with IAEA inspectors and to allay Western doubts in order to prevent an escalation of the crisis. The three countries have met with opposition from US officials for refusing to refer Tehran to the UN.

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