Merkel welcomes chance to discuss Iran sanctions in US

Merkel welcomes chance to discuss Iran sanctions in US

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the opportunity on Monday to discuss possible sanctions against Iran at a nuclear security summit in Washington later that day, DPA reported.

"Time is pressing," Merkel said of the decision on whether to penalise Iran for its failure to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) demands over its controversial nuclear programme.

Leaders from around 40 states are gathering in Washington for a top-level summit on nuclear security hosted by US President Barack Obama, which will explore ways of safeguarding uranium and plutonium so it does not fall into the hands of terrorists.

The chancellor said it was good that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao would both be present at the Washington summit. Both countries have been reticent to apply sanctions to Iran.

Merkel is to highlight the danger of civilian nuclear material - such as that stored in hospitals - being used to make so-called dirty bombs, which spread radioactive material by blowing it up with conventional explosives.

The chancellor is also expected to present the measures Germany has taken to protect its nuclear material, as an example to other countries. Germany only has civilian nuclear programmes.

Merkel said she was looking forward to bilateral talks with Obama, which would focus on the military strategy in Afghanistan, the rekindling of climate change talks and financial market regulation.

Merkel is not expected to make a firm offer for Germany to house freed inmates from the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay on Cuba.

Berlin had previously agreed to investigate individual cases of former Guantanamo detainees for whom it would not be safe to return to their countries of origin.

"These discussions are still running," Merkel said ahead of her departure.

Several of Germany's federal states have refused to accept former Guantanamo detainees.

The Washington summit on Monday and Tuesday is billed as the largest gathering of international leaders in the United States in more than 60 years.

India's Premier Manmohan Singh, Pakistani Premier Raza Yousef Gilani and South African President Jacob Zuma are among those attending.

Later in the week, the chancellor will continue her journey to the US state of California, where she is due to meet with researchers and industry representatives in a region ranked as the world's eighth largest economy.

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