German official: No chance of a deal with Iran

Published October 15, 2006

BERLIN - Germany's foreign minister on Saturday said there is no prospect of successful nuclear talks with Iran, but that pressure on the country would be applied gradually, leaving the door open to future negotiations.

Repeated attempts by the U.N. Security Council's five permanent members and Germany to entice Iran into negotiations on its nuclear program foundered this month over Tehran's refusal to give up uranium enrichment.

The six powers have agreed to start working on U.N. sanctions against Iran this month, diplomats and officials have said, but still have to bridge differences on how harsh the penalties should be.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier gave no details of sanctions that might be taken against Tehran. However, he noted that a package of incentives aimed at persuading Iran to halt uranium enrichment is still being offered.

"We do not have a situation in which negotiations can be held with prospects of success, so the Security Council must take up its efforts" to work toward possible sanctions, Steinmeier said on Inforadio.

"But we have made equally clear that our offer for cooperation with Iran remains on the table," Steinmeier said. "That means we are ready to return to the negotiating table any time if Iran declares its readiness to recognize the conditions for negotiations."

"Iran must understand that, if we negotiate, the building of further centrifuges must stop," he said.

Steinmeier said the six powers had talked about a "catalog of possible sanctions" in the summer but did not elaborate on what measures might be applied.

While the United States favors a tough line on Iran, Russia and China have advocated less severe measures. Steinmeier argued, however, that both countries have reason to feel angered by Iran's brusque rejection in the past of proposed compromises.

Uranium enriched to low levels is used to produce nuclear fuel. It can be used to develop nuclear weapons if enriched at higher levels.

Though Iran contends its nuclear program is for generating electricity, the United States and some of its allies allege it is trying to develop atomic weapons.