German FM presses Iran for nuclear answer

Germany's foreign minister urged Iran to stop playing for time and deliver a "clear answer" to initiatives offered by six world powers in the standoff over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, according to an interview released Saturday, the AP reported.

The U.N. Security Council's five permanent members, plus Germany, on July 19 set Iran an informal two-week deadline to show it is willing to stop expanding its uranium enrichment program - at least temporarily - in exchange for their commitment to stop seeking new U.N. sanctions.

"I appeal again to the Iranian side no longer to play for time, but to give us a usable answer to our offers: Stop dallying," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was quoted as saying in an interview with the weekly Der Spiegel.

Steinmeier said he expects "a clear signal for a mutual freeze: We would freeze our sanctions efforts and Iran the development of its centrifuges. This is a clear offer that deserves a clear answer, and soon."

A European Union official said Saturday that EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana's office had not yet received an answer from Iran but expected a reply "in the coming days" after the weekend deadline.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said EU nations and diplomats are not too concerned about Tehran's adherence to the exact deadline - but are keen for Iran to come back with a concrete reply that could form the basis of further negotiations.

In the interview with Der Spiegel, Steinmeier was quoted as saying: "It would be negligent" for Iran "not to use the current opportunity."

Asked what would happen if Iran continues to hedge, Steinmeier replied that "we would then have to further increase pressure via sanctions," according to the report.

The U.N. Security Council has slapped three sets of sanctions on Iran over its enrichment and reprocessing of uranium, which can produce the ingredients for a bomb. Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

The latest offer is meant to create space for the start of in-depth negotiations that the six powers hope will end in Iran agreeing to permanently mothball its enrichment program in exchange for a package of economic and political concessions. Iran so far has given no sign it will accept.

On Friday, U.S. officials said Iran sought but failed earlier in the week to win support from the 120-nation Nonaligned Movement for lifting U.N. sanctions and kicking the Security Council out of the dispute - although Tehran did get a broad endorsement of its right to peaceful uses of nuclear power.

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