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United States

Germany's Steinmeier slams Iran letter, draws McCain barb

Frank-Walter Steinmeier has warned that Republican efforts to undermine an Iran nuclear deal are unhelpful. Senior US Senator John McCain blasted Germany's visiting foreign minister, claiming he has no credibility.

McCain's comments on Thursday came after Steinmeier criticized US Republican senators for sending a letter to Iran that appeared to undermine current White House negotiations with Tehran.

The missive, signed by 47 out of 54 Republicans, told Iran that any deal it struck with the current US administration could be torn up by Congress or a change of presidency.

The letter was viewed by many commentators as extraordinary in that it represented a direct intervention, undermining talks between a US president and a foreign government. Germany, as part of the so-called P5+1 group of nations, is involved alongside the US in the talks in Geneva aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program.

"This is not a trifle," stressed Steinmeier, warning that the letter could put in danger the negotiating position of the P5+1 group. "The negotiations are difficult enough, so we didn't actually need further irritations."

"This is not just an issue of American domestic politics, but it affects the negotiations we are holding in Geneva," Steinmeier told journalists. "Obviously mistrust is growing..." he said.

Steinmeier, who was in Washington meeting Secretary of State John Kerry and national security adviser Susan Rice, emphasized it would be good "if the letter of the 47 senators no longer causes any disturbance in the negotiations."

No credibility 'in any way'

The controversial correspondence has caused something of a split in the Republican side of the Senate, with six of the senators refusing to add their names. However, the hawkish Senator John McCain said on Thursday he was "glad to have signed it."

McCain accused Steinmeier of being in the "Neville Chamberlain school of diplomacy" when it came to Ukraine, referring to the former British prime minister considered to have appeased Adolf Hitler in the run-up to the Second World War.

"The foreign minister of Germany is the same guy that refuses - and his government - to enact any restrictions on the behavior of Vladimir Putin, who is slaughtering Ukrainians as we speak," McCain told reporters. "He doesn't have any credibility in any way to me."

Talks already on sanctions lifting

Germany, along with other members of the EU, has in fact imposed limited sanctions against Russia. The US - which has far fewer trade ties to Russia than the EU - wants Brussels and individual governments to take a tougher line.

Talks were said to be underway on Thursday between Iran and the six negotiating countries about a lifting of UN sanctions against Tehran. The aim is to complete a framework for the final nuclear deal by the end of March.

However, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned fellow Iranians about "deceitful" foreign powers. He was reported by the AFP news agency as having branded the letter by Republicans as a sign of America's internal collapse.

rc/bw (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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