Thursday, June 29, 2006

German official backs nuclear enrichment by Iran

But says close monitoring is key
By Louis Charbonneau, Reuters | June 29, 2006

"nuclear iran"-- Iran should be allowed to enrich uranium for power generation provided there is close monitoring by UN inspectors to ensure it is not trying to develop atomic weapons, Germany's defens e minister said.

The minister's comments may suggest that after years of failed negotiations with Iran, Germany and some other Western powers are willing to compromise with Iran over enrichment in order to resolve peacefully the nuclear standoff with Tehran.

But it was clear this view was unacceptable to Washington, which contacted the German government to clarify it.

In an interview , Defens e Minister Franz Josef Jung was asked if Iran should be allowed to enrich uranium under the scrutiny of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

``Yes, I think so," he said. ``The offer includes everything. That means the civilian use of nuclear energy is possible but not atomic weapons. And monitoring mechanisms must be applied. I think it would be wise for Iran to accept this offer ."

Jung was referring to a June 6 offer of incentives made to Iran by Germany and the five permanent UN Security Council members -- the United States, Britain, France, China, and Russia.

US State Department spokesman deputy spokesman Adam Ereli denied any divisions among the major powers. He said the German government had been contacted about the interview and told Washington ``this is an erroneous story."

German government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said in a statement to Reuters it stood with the five council members on the issue of Iran and reiterated that Berlin wanted Iran to suspend enrichment in order to enable negotiations on the offer to take place.

``It's up to Iran, through a suspension of enrichment, to create the conditions for negotiations and win back international trust," Wilhelm said.

The issue of Iran's nuclear ambitions will dominate a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized nations in Moscow todayon Thursday. The ministers aim to decide how best to nudge Iran to respond to the offer.

Jung did not mention any timeframe when Iran, -- which has been enriching uranium for months on a small scale, -- could be permitted to make nuclear fuel with the West's blessing. But he said close IAEA oversight would be sufficient to show the world whether Tehran's nuclear programme was as peaceful as it says.

© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
posted by ali ghannadi-irannuk


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