by Claudia Kade
BEIJING â€” German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in China for talks on Iran, human rights and piracy, said yesterday she and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao had agreed Tehran should not have nuclear weapons capability.
Western powers have been at odds with China and Russia on how to halt Iranâ€™s atomic programmes, which the west believes is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.
Senior officials from the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany will meet in London tomorrow to discuss the next steps on Iranâ€™s disputed nuclear programme, officials confirmed.
The meeting of political directors was postponed last week.
Merkel, who is on her first visit to Beijing as chancellor, said: â€œWe talked about Iran, and agreed Iran should not have the capability to make nuclear weapons and shouldnâ€™t proliferate weapons of mass destruction.â€
Beijing has been opposed to tougher measures such as sanctions against Iran to force it to stop its research, and trying to forge a consensus on the issue is seen as one of the goals of Merkelâ€™s trip. Russia has taken a similar stance.
Weekly magazine Der Spiegel cited unnamed German officials as saying that some in Berlin would like to break the deadlock with Iran by allowing it to engage in limited and monitored uranium enrichment research, a view also held by the United Nations (UNâ€™s) nuclear watchdogâ€™s chief Mohamed ElBaradei.
â€œSome Germans have this view. But we will not break ranks with the EU-3 and the Americans,â€ a German official said, referring to the European Union (EU) powers of Britain, France and Germany.
â€œWe want to keep as unified a front as possible, preferably one that includes the Russians and Chinese,â€ said the official, who declined to be named.
But as she tried to make breakthroughs with China on Iran, Merkel also raised the tricky issue of human rights. â€œI have made it clear that human rights are indivisible,â€ she said.
There was an increasing willingness to talk about the issue, but also differences of opinion, said Merkel, who in opposition was critical of efforts to scrap a EU ban on arms sales to Beijing.
In a departure from Chinaâ€™s usually stern protocol, Merkelâ€™s visit got off to a relaxed start with an early morning walk in the park with Wen, followed by a Chinese breakfast together.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday Washington was not offering security guarantees to Iran to end its nuclear programme.
â€œIran is a troublemaker in the international system, a central banker of terrorism. Security assurances are not on the table,â€ she told Fox News Sunday.
The top US diplomat spoke as Iran said on Sunday it would not suspend uranium enrichment despite EU plans to offer incentives to the Islamic republic if it halts the sensitive nuclear work.
Rice said: â€œItâ€™s obvious that in addition to the nuclear issue, we have other issues with Iran. We have a state in Iran that is devoted to the destruction of Israel.â€
Iran said its nuclear programme remained on track despite the international pressure. â€œWe will not stop enrichment,â€ foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said in Tehran.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday Iran could have a nuclear bomb in â€œmonthsâ€, and vowed that Israel would take the â€œnecessary measuresâ€ to stop this in its tracks.
A draft proposal by the nuclear negotiators says world powers should support Iran building several light-water reactors and should set up a nuclear fuel bank that would guarantee Iran access to reactor fuel but not sensitive fuel cycle technology. With Sapa-AFP