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Steinmeier worried about imminent collapse of Group 5+1 over Iran

Berlin, Sept 2, IRNA-German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is reportedly concerned about an imminent collapse of the Group 5 plus 1 (US, Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany ) over differences on how to deal with Iran's nuclear program, the website of the news magazine Der Spiegel said Saturday.

"Steinmeier fears that the refusal by Moscow and Beijing to support immediate sanctions against Iran could lead to a breakdown of the Group 5 plus 1," Der Spiegel said.

"We are trying to take out the pressure," a confidant of the German foreign minister was quoted saying.

Berlin is especially concerned over mounting pressure tactics of the Americans who are seeking to commit Germany, France and Britain to support sanctions on Iran.

Observers expect a tough debate in Berlin on Thursday as top diplomats of the six countries will meet in the German capital to discuss the next steps in the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

'No deadline' for Iran, says Solana

London, Sept 2, IRNA-EU High Representative Javier Solana dismissed reports that a new ultimatum was being set for Iran about re-opening negotiations over its peaceful nuclear programme.

"We are going to start in the coming days and I hope it will be very short. We don't need many meetings," Solana said Saturday after previously confirming that he is due to meet Iran's top negotiator Ali Larijani next week.

But 'there is no deadline', he told reporters attending an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Lappeenranta, southern Finland, according to EU Business news feeds.

Earlier Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel was quoted by a news agency saying that the EU was giving 'Solana two weeks for his clarification talks'.

The EU's top diplomat is reported seeking to 'clarify' sections of a 21-page Iranian response to an incentives deal, which also includes an offer to relaunch talks.

According to the Finnish presidency of the EU, the foreign ministers from the 25-nation bloc included discussions on problems related to Iran's nuclear program on the 'basis of a situation analysis' drawn up by Solana.

The decision to give Iran extra time came after Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, chairing the meeting, said it was not yet time for any sanctions to be imposed against Iran in the dispute.

"For the EU, diplomacy remains the No. 1 way forward," he said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was also quoted by EU Business that he was 'hopeful' that negotiations with Iran remain possible.

It was crucial that the UN 'Security Council and its member states do not allow themselves to be divided by this conflict' with Iran, Steinmeier said.

Britain's Minister for Europe, Geoff Hoon, whose government has been supporting US threats to impose sanctions, insisted that they cannot allow Iran to continue to 'spin out' this process.

"The deadline is tight. His mandate is tight. We need action. We need a response from Iran," Hoon told reporters after the meeting.

But in contrast to the British official, the German Foreign Minister suggested that any moves in that direction at the United Nations could be counter-productive.

"The EU and Germany have no interest in seeing an escalation in the coming days and weeks as a result of the consultations at the Security Council," he said.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos also insisted that the EU was determined to 'go right to the very end with dialogue, to the very end with its diplomatic efforts'.

... Payvand News - 9/2/06 ... --

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