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Six-nation talks add pressure on Iran
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The foreign ministers of six nations met in Berlin on Tuesday on the Iranian nuclear issue, adding pressure on Tehran while seeking diplomacy instead of confrontation.

In the talks, the top diplomats from the United States, Germany, China, France, Britain and Russia reached consensus on major points of a new UN resolution on the issue.

"We are happy that we have reached consensus on major points of the next Security Council Resolution," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told a press conference.

Steinmeier, who hosted the one-day meeting, said Germany, France and Britain would submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council, which would then discuss it over the next few weeks.

The six-nation consensus implies more pressure on Iran for cooperation with the international community.

Steinmeier said all parties involved were worried that a nuclear-armed Iran "would have dramatic consequences for the Middle East and beyond."

According to the German news agency DPA, a new UN resolution, the third of its kind, would probably include more sanctions against the Islamic republic unless a solution could be found.

The United States and the European Union have been seeking a third set of UN sanctions against Iran to press it to stop uranium enrichment activities that they fear could be used to make nuclear weapons.

Russia and China, however, prefer peaceful means in resolving the thorny issue.

Despite the six-nation consensus, Steinmeier did not mention "sanctions" at the press conference, nor did his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi.

The Chinese delegation told Xinhua that Yang urged relevant parties to make more diplomatic efforts and work creatively to break the deadlock and find a solution.

"The action taken by the UN Security Council should be helpful to the realization of the above objectives," a Chinese diplomat quoted Yang as saying.

"It is in the common interest of the international community to resolve the Iran nuclear issue peacefully through diplomatic negotiation," said Yang.

Analysts say the US intelligence on Iran has made it difficult to convince both Russia and China that Tehran deserves further sanctions.

Last month, a National Intelligence Estimate said Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003, a conclusion that undermined warnings by President George W. Bush about the Iranian threat.

Recent developments on the Iran nuclear issue have also alleviated the possibility of confrontation.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, confirmed on January 13 that Iran had agreed to resolve remaining questions about its secret nuclear activities within four weeks.

Confrontation is, in fact, what the EU-3 have tried to avoid in resolving the issue. Leaders from the three EU states have repeatedly voiced opposition to military means.

"We are not willing to see confrontation on the issue," Steinmeier told reporters after talks.
(Xinhua News Agency January 24, 2008)

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