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. German FM urges closer US cooperation on Iran nuke talks
WASHINGTON (AFP) Jan 25, 2005
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer urged Tuesday closer cooperation between the United States and its European allies in efforts to negotiate a dismantling of Iran's suspected nuclear arms program.

"We have to make progress in the diplomatic efforts," Fischer told German reporters before meeting here with outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell and his designated successor Condoleezza Rice.

Germany, France and Britain have been negotiating with Tehran to persuade the Iranians to renounce their nuclear weapons ambitions, with the United States remaining largely on the sidelines.

Fischer said the Europeans and the Americans "are not very far apart" on the danger that a nuclear-armed Iran would represent, and he appeared to call for greater US involvement in dissuasive efforts.

"I think if we can bring forward diplomacy in a closely coordinated manner between Europe and the United States, this would be an important step forward," the chief German diplomat said.

"For us it is important that we do all we can to bring together the positions in an intense dialogue across the Atlantic so that we can make diplomatic progress."

Washington insists that after a quarter century of sanctions against Iran that has wiped out bilateral trade and investment, it has little diplomatic or economic leverage left with the Islamic Republic.

President George W. Bush and his administration have ratcheted up their rhetoric, refusing to rule out military action. Vice President Dick Cheney last week said Iran topped the list of global trouble spots.

Fischer said after meeting with Rice that they had a "very constructive discussion and a very open discussion" in preparation for Bush's tour of Europe next month that was likely to include talks on Iran.

He made the rounds in Washington a day after British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also had talks with Rice and Powell.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher would not comment on the substance of the diplomatic meetings here but reiterated Washington's hope that the Europeans' negotiations with Iran would succeed.

"We hope that the Iranians agree to take the steps that the EU is looking for and to take the steps that would be required to satisfy the international community of Iran's intentions," Boucher said.

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