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Merkel Gets Tough

DW staff / DPA (nda)
November 11, 2007

The UN Security Council must be prepared to enact strong sanctions if Iran fails to comply with demands to halt uranium enrichment and come clean about its nuclear activities, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

President Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel shake hands after holding a joint press conference at his ranch in Crawford
Merkel and Bush found common ground on Iran but remained at odds on other topicsImage: AP

Merkel, speaking Saturday after a meeting with US President George W Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, also said she will urge German business to reduce ties to Iran in an effort to step up pressure on the Iranian regime because of its suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.

"Germany needs to look somewhat closer at the existing business ties with Iran," Merkel said through a translator. "There are certain companies that have business with Iran. We have already done that. And we need to look, as the situation unfolds, whether we have to have a closer look again."

Bush and Merkel emphasized they were committed to resolving the dispute with Iran diplomatically, although Bush has not ruled out the use of military strikes against Iranian targets if Tehran does not suspend enriching uranium, a process that can be used to develop a nuclear bomb. Iran insists its nuclear ambitions are limited to producing civilian energy.

"What the Iranian regime must understand is that we will continue to work together to solve this problem diplomatically, which means they will continue to be isolated," Bush said.

President Bush talks with reporters while German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, looks over his property after arriving on his ranch located outside of Crawford Texas
Merkel's visit marks an historic moment in relationsImage: AP

Merkel's visit to Bush's remote ranch marked the first time in more than 40 years a German leader has met with an American president at his private residence and was the latest sign of how strong US-German relations have become since the fallout over the war in Iraq.

US-French relations are also on the mend, symbolized earlier this week by the visit of President Nicolas Sarkozy that included red carpet treatment at the White House and meetings at the mansion outside the US capital that once belonged to the first US president, George Washington.

Germany, along with three permanent members of the Security Council -- Britain, France and the United States -- have been pushing for another round of international sanctions on Iran, but have faced resistance from China and Russia, two other permanent members who wield veto authority.

The Security Council has already approved two resolutions with limited sanctions to compel Iran to halt uranium enrichment and cooperate with the UN nuclear monitoring body known as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Hot topics on the agenda in Crawford

Bush and Merkel also discussed a host of other issues, including Iraq, the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, resolving the final status of Kosovo, Lebanon and US plans to host a conference this autumn in Annapolis, Maryland, hoping to make progress on a peace settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

President Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrive to speak to the media at his ranch in Crawford, Texas
Merkel remained firm on Germany's role in AfghanistanImage: AP

Merkel arrived at Bush's ranch Friday evening for two days of talks. She reiterated her country's commitment to stabilizing and rebuilding Afghanistan.

Germany has about 3,000 troops in Afghanistan, but they are limited to a peacekeeping role in relatively safe areas and are forbidden from joining US and NATO forces in southern Afghanistan fighting against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

"We need to do more in order to help them continue to build up the police and to continue to also build up the army there, improve that, and go on with the training that we have already embarked on," Merkel said.

Merkel throws weight behind Middle East peace process

Merkel also expressed support for the Israel-Palestinian peace conference reportedly to take place in late November. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been traveling to the Middle East in recent weeks trying to organize the conference that will include other Arabic countries -- possibly even Syria.

"We want the peace process to make progress, and we think that the conference, the upcoming conference in Annapolis is indeed a possibility to bring this success about," Merkel said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, welcomes U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the chancellery in Berlin, Feb. 2007
Merkel and Rice are driving the West's efforts for peaceImage: AP

Rice has been urging Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to agree to a framework for the conference she hopes will lay the groundwork for the creation of a Palestinian state.

Bush and Merkel also discussed trade and global warming. Merkel said he hopes the United States will participate in a UN climate change conference in Bali in December. Merkel has been a leading international advocate for rallying governments to take steps to slow global warming.

Bush non-commital on Germany's UN ambitions

The two leaders also discussed UN reform, particularly on the Security Council, where Germany has been seeking permanent membership. The only country the United States openly backs is Japan, and Bush was noncommittal when asked about Germany's ambitions.

"Japan should have a seat," Bush said. "Beyond that, I've made no commitment, except this: that we're for UN Security Council reforms, and that I'm willing to listen to good ideas."

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