Merkel and Sarkozy agree on Iran strategy
by International Herald Tribune
While urging Russia and China to increase the pressure on Iran, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed Monday to pursue sanctions and diplomacy to deal with Tehran's nuclear program and stop it from producing nuclear weapons.
Speaking in Berlin during the twice-yearly French-German consultations, Sarkozy said Berlin and Paris were working in tandem over Iran.
"I think our positions are very close," he said at a news conference with Merkel. "We may have, here or there maybe, a problem of tempo, but on the main points of this policy, we are on the same wavelength - no nuclear arms for Iran, sanctions and dialogue. The door remains open but the sanctions are toughening."
Merkel said at the weekend that the United Nations Security Council should prepare for new sanctions even though Russia and China oppose such a move.
Speaking after two days of talks with President George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas, Merkel insisted that diplomacy must be pursued. The Bush administration has repeatedly said that all options, including military action, are on the table.
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"We want to have Russia and China in the world community that makes clear to Iran that we cannot resign ourselves to this nuclear program," Merkel said.
But Sarkozy warned that there was little time left for the international community.
"Germany and France think that, for sanctions to be efficient, there must be unity in the international community, including China and Russia, and that we must maintain the line of dialogue at the same time as firm sanctions," he said. "Time is working against us."
Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear monitor, is to present a report in Vienna this week on Iran's compliance with its obligations to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Under the terms of the treaty, Iran is obligated to allow the agency to inspect sites and verify that nuclear technology is being used for peaceful purposes only. Until recently, Tehran refused to cooperate fully with the agency. Diplomats involved in trying to persuade Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program and cease all processing have said ElBaradei's report will contain both a positive and negative assessment.
A European diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Iran was now beginning to cooperate with the agency and was allowing inspectors to visit sites.
"Iran is slowly clarifying the past," the diplomat said. "It had covered up. It had hidden some aspects of their nuclear program. It had not been transparent. Here we see some movement. That is the good news. That, after all, is its treaty obligations. The downside is that Iran will not suspend its uranium enrichment program. And that is the outstanding issue."
Without taking this step, German officials said, it would be impossible for the Europeans to offer Iran a framework agreement that would include close trade, political and technological ties with European nations.
In practice, it would mean that if Iran suspended its enrichment program, the international community would establish normal relations with Iran.
Another European diplomat said: "The issue is that Iran will not agree to suspension of any kind. It believes it has done enough by cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency and therefore that does not merit any more sanctions."
Iran is also refusing to set a date to meet Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, who represents the Europeans in its negotiations with Iran.
Solana, who is preparing his own report on Iran, had requested a meeting this week, but the Iranian response was to wait until the end of November, when the UN Security Council is scheduled to meet to discuss another round of sanctions.
In September, the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany agreed that they would table another resolution to impose sanctions against Iran unless the November reports by ElBaradei and Solana showed a positive outcome of their efforts.
Britain, France and Germany agree that much tougher sanctions should be imposed through the Security Council. But without support from China and Russia, diplomats said, it is hard to see how the threat could have any impact on Iran.