We've addressed a number of issues here today of regional concern, chief among them is Iran, where we are in total agreement, saying that under no circumstances must Iran be allowed to come into possession of a nuclear weapon. We are in agreement, also, that a diplomatic solution needs to be found, and we do see good chances for bringing this about. But we also think that it is essential, in this context, that the clear resolve of the international community is shown by standing united, by showing cohesion on this matter.While the U.S. wants to see economic sanctions as soon as possible, Merkel emphasizes a gradual process aimed at getting Russia's and China's support:
If one wants to see this conclude to a diplomatic success, to actually do this on a step-by-step basis. Quite often, attempts have been made to rush matters, and to actually pre-empt what should be at the end of the process and to take the next -- the other next step before the next one. And I really do think that on this one in order to pursue this diplomatic process successfully we need to pursue this on a step-by-step basis. It's happening now.The last remark refers to the U.N. Security Council resolution introduced by Britain and France that "would be legally binding and set the stage for sanctions against Iran if the nation does not abandon uranium enrichment." President Bush refused to answers the press' questions on his plans for sanctions. Russia and China have so far opposed sanctions. Merkel, however, met with Russian President Putin last week and will travel to China on May 21. Andrew Kamons, one of the editors of Foreign Policy, praises Germany's leadership and points out:
Germany has a lot of leverage in this process. Since Merkel took office, Germany has made strengthening ties with the U.S. a priority, and it has earned the trust of the current administration on the issue of Iran. As a part of the EU-3 pressure against Iran nuclear proliferation and a strong opponent of the Iraq war, Germany has credibility as a firm negotiator on Iran without being tainted by too close an association with the United States. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it enjoys some of the closest economic ties with Iran, and support for punitive measures lets Iran know that economics won't trump security concerns.Chancellor Merkel avoided to answer the question whether she wants the United States to talk directly with Iran on this issue. Foreign Minister Steinmeier and the chairman of the German parliament's foreign affairs committee called for direct U.S.-Iranian talks to overcome their bilateral problems.
President Bush mentioned the topics of his conversation with Chancellor Merkel:
Obviously, we spent a lot of time on Iran. After all, we're close allies in trying to make sure that the Iranians do not develop a nuclear weapon. We talked about the WTO round, the Doha round for the WTO, and I appreciated the Chancellor's willingness to work with not only the Europeans, but with a country like Brazil, and others, to see if we can't bring this round to a favorable conclusion. This evening I'm going to talk to the Chancellor about Sudan, and the progress that's being made in Iraq.President Bush will attend the annual U.S.-EU Summit in Vienna, Austria, on June 21, 2006 and meet with Merkel in Germany as part of a trip to the G8 summit in Russia. Before returning to Germany, Chancellor Merkel will meet leaders of U.S. industry and finance in New York and speak at the 100th anniversary gala of the American Jewish Committee in Washington DC.