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German Foreign Minister Urges Iran to Consider Nuclear Offer

DW staff (dc)June 2, 2006

Speaking in Turkey, Germany's foreign minister on Friday urged Iran to carefully study proposals by Western powers that would help resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

Steinmeier spoke of "strong signs" of progress on the Iran issueImage: AP

Frank-Walter Steinmeier said there were "very strong signs" that the proposals made by Western powers in Vienna on Thursday would help resolve the ongoing dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

"Very important progress has been achieved in the efforts for solution and there are very strong signs that they will be successful," he told reporters after talks with his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gül.

Steinmeier flew to Ankara from Vienna, where foreign ministers of the five permanent UN Security Council members, plus Germany, agreed late Thursday to offer Iran a package of benefits if it suspends sensitive nuclear fuel work.

The offer came with a threat of penalties, including UN sanctions, if Iran refuses to suspend uranium enrichment.

Steinmeier said he was optimistic that Tehran would agree to the proposals, aimed at easing concerns that Iran may be trying to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a drive for civilian energy.

"We are hopeful that Iran will study the proposals very carefully and with a sense of responsibility and that a positive response will emerge," he said. "I think the US decision will be influential in Iran's evaluation. That is why we are optimistic."

Steinmeier was referring to a conditional US offer to join European-led talks with the Islamic republic if it suspended enrichment work. Iran on Thursday rejected the US conditions, saying it was ready for the talks but unwilling to freeze sensitive nuclear work.

The German minister expressed hope that Russia and China would follow the US example and join the same talks.

Turkey pushed to allow Cypriot use of ports

Frank-Walter Steinmeier in der Türkei Abdullah Gül
Steinmeier is seen with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah GülImage: AP

While in Ankara, Steinmeier also urged Turkey to ratify by the end of 2006 a key customs union protocol with the European Union that would open Turkish ports to Cypriot use.

"There is still no development regarding the protocol's ratification," he told reporters. "We wish that this issue will be resolved by the end of the year, before Germany takes over the EU presidency. We are determined to keep up our efforts on this issue."

In July, Turkey extended an existing customs union accord with the EU to the 10 newest members, including Cyprus, whose internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government Ankara refuses to endorse.

Since then, the government has failed to send the document to parliament for a final ratification.

The EU says the accord entitles all bloc members to use Turkish air and sea ports, but Ankara insists that Greek Cypriots would remain barred unless international restrictions imposed on the breakaway Turkish Cypriot northern part of the island are simultaneously lifted.

Despite the rift over Cyprus, Steinmeier said the accession talks with Turkey, which opened on October 4, "are moving forward in a positive way."

Gül expressed hope that Germany would continue to back Turkey's membership aspirations.

Ankara lost a staunch supporter in Germany when Gerhard Schröder lost in last year's elections to incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is cool towards Turkish membership.