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. Germany leader urges diplomatic solution to Iranian nuclear row
BERLIN (AFP) Feb 04, 2005
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Friday endorsed a US call for greater democracy in Iran but strongly backed a diplomatic solution to Tehran's suspected nuclear weapons' ambitions.

At a news conference after meeting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Schroeder rejected a suggestion that US insistence on democratic change in Iran could compromise European efforts to negotiate with it on the nuclear question.

He said that US President George W. Bush's "heart is where it should be" on democracy in Iran and "I couldn't agree more. I don't believe at all that there will be any weakening effect on the ongoing EU three negotiations," he said in reference to the talks with Iran conducted by Germany, Britain and France.

Shroeder said that the Iranians had a right to develop a civilian nuclear programme but that any efforts to use it to produce nuclear weapons were unacceptable.

"It is important that Iran does have the right to civilian nuclear power but we are opposed to the fact that they have military potential," he said.

Some Europeans have expressed fears that a hardening of the US rhetoric on Iran could signal a possible preemptive strike to knock out Iran's nuclear capabilities.

But Schroeder, who said he had "extensive discussions" on Iran with Rice said the three European countries were ready to do "everything and anything to come to a diplomatic and political solution."

"I hope those steps are having the right effect," he said.

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