Iran's failure to meet a UN deadline to stop uranium enrichment has heightened concerns in Western countries even as Germany and the EU insist that the row can only be resolved diplomatically.
German Foreign Minister Steinmeier has said Iran's failure is "unacceptable"
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Friday said Iran's failure to comply with the United Nations' 30-day deadline to halt uranium enrichment was unacceptable.
"All those involved have a duty to look for ways to calm the situation and when I say that, I lay most of the responsibility at the door of Iran, which has up to now not only showed no sign of compromise but has consistently taken the wrong path," Steinmeier said. "This we cannot accept," he added.
Iranian President Ahmadinejad is still sticking to his guns
The deadline set by the UN Security Council expired on Friday, a day after hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed that his nation "will not bow to injustice and pressure."
In a report released in Vienna on Friday, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Tehran had failed to comply with the Security Council's demand. His report paves the way for the Security Council to adopt a resolution legally obliging Iran to cooperate with the IAEA, the
UN's atomic watchdog, and eventually to punish the Islamic Republic with economic sanctions.
Germany insists on diplomatic solution
Steinmeier was speaking to reporters after meeting with his counterpart from Oman, Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, shortly after returning from a NATO conference in the Bulgarian capital Sofia. He said foreign ministers of the 26-nation transatlantic alliance agreed that the international community should form a strong united front on the Iranian nuclear crisis in further deliberations at the Security Council.
"We agreed that in further discussions at the Security Council, the international community should now stand firm so as to make clear to Iran what the negative consequences of self isolation would be."
He added that Germany was intent on finding a diplomatic solution to the standoff on Iran's nuclear power program, which Washington and its allies believe masks a bid to develop atomic weapons.
"We remain convinced that only a diplomatic solution can resolve the situation," Steinmeier added.
Solana has said a diplomatic solution is the only way forward
EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana also expressed dismay at Iran's failure to comply with the UN deadline.
"I'm disappointed that in such a serious situation Iran didn't meet the deadline set by the UN Security Council," Solana told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag. "We'll work further for a diplomatic solution. The Security Council is now expected to act."
On Saturday, Iranian sources said Tehran was ready for a resumption of a monitoring of its nuclear program.
The deputy head of the IAEA, Mohammed Saidi told state television that the condition was that the case shouldn't be taken up by the UN Security Council but instead should be referred back to the IAEA. Saidi added that could mean that Iran could continue its controversial uranium-enrichment program, but it would at the same time allow surprise checks of its nuclear facilities.
Representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany will meet in Paris on Tuesday to decide the further course of action. The Council could also impose sanctions on Iran.
Iran expected to dominate Merkel, Bush talks
On Friday, US President George W Bush spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the telephone about the crisis surrounding the Iranian stance. Merkel will head to the US next week.
Merkel and Bush's next meeting will be dominated by Iran
Bush said that Iran had to be aware that it was the common goal of several countries to nudge the country on to a peaceful path, away from its nuclear ambitions.
According to Germany's Deputy Foreign Minister, Gernot Erler, the German government is in favor of a new internationally-binding UN resolution which didn't automatically include the possibility of sanctions. Erler told German daily Frankfurter Rundschau that even a resolution that did away with the word 'sanctions' could 'lead to very concrete disadvantages for Iran.'
The international stance on Iran was now increasingly under pressure, said Erler. He added that German Foreign Minister Steinmeier would urge the US to directly talk to Tehran about the nuclear row.
Chancellor Merkel is expected to do the same when she meets Bush next week.