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Westerwelle uses Israel visit to demand Iran nuclear talks

Germany’s foreign minister has called on Iran to return to the negotiating table over its nuclear program. During a short visit to Israel, Guido Westerwelle said he shares concerns over Iran's atomic ambitions.

Iran's nuclear program was the primary focus of talks on Sunday as Westerwelle met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. He urged Iran to restart nuclear talks as fears mount that the Islamic Republic is seeking to use the program to build atomic weapons.

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Westerwelle is in Israel

"Our goal remains a political and diplomatic solution," Westerwelle said, promising Netanyahu that Germany stands "together with Israel, which means, of course, that we also share concerns over Iran's nuclear program."

"Nuclear arms in the hands of the Iranian government is not an option and we will not accept this," Westerwelle added.

Earlier on Sunday Westerwelle also met with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and called on Iran to make meaningful and "substantial offers" in nuclear talks. Barak responded by praising Germany for its efforts to resolve the dispute.

"Germany is an important player in the international efforts" to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, Barak said.

Westerwelle's visit comes after weeks of rhetoric in Israel over a possible go-it-alone strike against Tehran's nuclear facilities. Israel, which has never confirmed or denied its own nuclear capability, has not ruled out the use of military force to prevent Iran from obtaining atomic weaponry. Netanyahu did nothing to assuage speculation on Sunday when he called on world powers to set a "red line" for Tehran.

"I call on the entire international community, or at least on its responsible members, to follow in Canada's determined path and set Iran moral and practical red lines, lines that will stop its race to achieve nuclear weapons," Netanyahu said. Canada opted to close its embassy in Tehran on Thursday, expelling all Iranian diplomats.

Fears have prompted the European Union to state its intention to impose further economic sanctions on Tehran should it fail to provide proof that its civilian nuclear program had a military dimension. Germany, France, Britain, Russia, China and the United States have held three rounds of inconclusive talks with Iran this year in a bid to seek a diplomatic solution.

Submarine sale

While Westerwelle and Netanyahu used their meeting to highlight their close diplomatic ties, one key point of contention was left unresolved.

Westerwelle was expected to discuss the possible delivery of two German submarines to Egypt. The mass-circulation Bild newspaper reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was determined to block the sale of the two subs until further notice. The paper quoted an unnamed Israeli diplomat who said newly elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi first need to "prove [his] reliability."

Westerwelle declined to comment specifically on the issue as he went into the meeting with Netanyahu.

He did note, however, that "the security interests of Israel are carefully considered in all German government decisions."

ccp / mkg (dpa, DAPD, Reuters, AFP)

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