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Germany

Steinmeier in Washington Discusses Iran

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is on an official two day visit to the US, ahead of a trip to Washington by German Chancellor Angela Merkel scheduled for May.

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Frank-Walter Steinmeier ends his Washington vsiit Wednesday

In his second Washington visit in two months, Steinmeier held talks with US officials on the Iranian nuclear crisis and the Middle East Monday ahead of talks with US counterpart Condoleezza Rice Tuesday.

Steinmeier met with White House National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and congressional leaders on Monday before meeting with Senate majority leader Bill Frist and Rice for discussions expected to focus on the Iranian nuclear program, Israeli and Palestinian election results and the situation in Belarus and the Balkans.

Paving the way

Angela Merkel in Washington USA George Bush

President Bush and Angela Merkel met in Washington in January 2006

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that President George W. Bush telephoned German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday to brief her about Iran, Belarus, Rice's trip over the weekend to Iraq, and other matters.

Steinmeier's trip is intended to pave the way for a US visit by Merkel in May.

He and Hadley discussed Iraq, Iran, Ukraine, the West's approach to Hamas in light of its victory in the Palestinian elections and last month's landmark nuclear deal between the United States and India, German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jäger said.

Steinmeier last week criticized the nuclear pact, in which the United States agreed to provide nuclear technology in exchange for India separating its civil and military atomic programs, as "not helpful" in light of the dispute with Iran over its nuclear program.

Direct talks between Washington and Iran?

The talks with Rice will also cover Iran's disputed nuclear ambitions, last week's Israeli elections, aid to the Palestinian territories after the Hamas poll victory, Belarus and the Balkans, Jäger said.

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

European negotiators have expressed hope that US-Iranian talks could bring a breakthrough in efforts to persuade Tehran to freeze its uranium enrichment activities, which Western powers fear could be used to create fuel for an atomic bomb.

Failed negotiations

Rice was in Berlin Thursday for 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.

US-Aussenministerin Condoleezza Rice geht mit ihren Amtskollegen am Donnerstag, 30. Maerz 2006 in Berlin zu einer Pressekonferenz.

Condoleezza Rice with her counterparts in Berlin

Ministers of the six countries discussed the road ahead one day after the council adopted a non-binding statement urging Iran to halt all uranium enrichment activities within 30 days.

Britain, France and Germany have led negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program but the talks broke down in January when a defiant Tehran said it would resume sensitive nuclear research.

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