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Nuclear Stalemate

DPA news agency (dm)August 7, 2008

Germany rejected on Iran's response to an offer of negotiations over its nuclear program. The UN Security Council is considering further sanctions against Tehran as the IAEA continues talks.

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has conveyed Germany's dissatisfaction with TehranImage: AP

The UN atomic watchdog's number two was in Tehran on Thursday, Aug. 7, for two days of talks concerning Iran's nuclear program as Western governments said the time had come for the Security Council to impose fresh sanctions.

The German government saw as "unsatisfactory" Tehran's response to the offer put forward jointly by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany in cooperation with the European Union, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Wednesday.

"We underlined through this offer that we were striving for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear dispute," Steinmeier said.

The major powers were sticking to the dual strategy of offering incentives to Tehran while warning that the Security Council would take up the issue again, he said.

On Tuesday, Iran delivered a message to EU officials in Brussels to the effect that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) could send an inspection team to Tehran.

An unnamed Iranian official confirmed that a message was delivered through Iranian Ambassador Ali-Asghar Khaji but said the message was not, as initially reported by the local media, a reply to the offer by the world powers.

The offer by the five UN veto powers -- the US, France, Britain, Russia and China -- plus Germany is for far-reaching economic cooperation with Iran, including in the field of civilian-sector nuclear power, in return for a pledge by Tehran to refrain from uranium enrichment activities.

Specter of further sanctions looms

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iran remains defiant against international efforts to curtail its nuclear activitiesImage: AP

On Wednesday, the US and Britain said the major powers had agreed to consider further Security Council sanctions against Iran after it failed to halt its nuclear activities.

But at the United Nations, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said there was no definite agreement among the six powers for a fourth round of sanctions against Iran, reported the International Herald Tribune.

A European Union diplomat told the paper there would not be immediate sanctions and dialogue should continue with the Iranians. "It's not for tomorrow," said the diplomat.

Western governments accuse Tehran of using a civil nuclear program to cover up work on creating nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear activities are aimed at generating electricity.

However, US officials maintained their warning that Iran would face new sanctions if it did not accept the offer of fresh talks and incentives.

Such sanctions would likely take months to be enacted however, as was the case with previous measures, owing to Chinese and Russian resistance to the move. It remains unclear whether sanctions could be agreed upon before the end of the Bush administration's term in Jan. 2009.

"I am not going to guess how long this will take and where it may ultimately lead," US State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos told the IHT.