Ard Tagesthemen Interview with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

April 12, 2006

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Related Country: 

  • Iran

Question: Do you think Iran really has the technology to enrich uranium?

Answer: We don't know. But what we can say is that today's announcement is another provocation - and that on a day when we know an IAEA delegation led by the organization's director, Mr ElBaradei, is on its way to Iran to check things out. This announcement is a renewed provocation which we must not rise to, but which does indeed increase our concern.

But what Iran is doing is within the bounds of legitimacy. Are you not just assuming that Tehran's intentions are bad?

Well, we have not awoken this spectre. Rather, in 2003 … suspicion was aroused that Iran might for the past 18 years have been conducting research of a kind that at least indicated the possibility of a nuclear weapons programme. Iran was then called upon to allay these concerns, to restore credibility. It has not done so to the present day, although we in Europe - Germany, France and Great Britain - have worked very hard for more than two and a half years to clarify the issue. We have not succeeded in doing so. And therefore the Security Council is now looking at the matter.

But enriched uranium can easily be bought on the world market. Does enrichment make economic sense for Iran?

That is a question we have discussed on many occasions with the top Iranian negotiators, of whom there have been a wide variety over the past years. In our view, refraining from enriching uranium in their own country would be a proof of good faith, and at any rate it would be something we could rely on as evidence that nuclear weapons programmes are not currently being developed in Iran. I can only repeat that even after the discussions we held in the past weeks here in Berlin … we are interested in a diplomatic solution, in a negotiated solution. The door is still open. But what we need now is a sign from Iran, from Tehran, that it will refrain from enrichment activities. That's what we are waiting for. The ball is in Tehran's court. The next move must come from them.

The sign that came today was actually very different. And at the end of April the United States therefore wants to request the Security Council to take strong measures against Iran. Is such a tough approach sensible?

The sign from Iran points, as you rightly say, in the wrong direction. We expect that the opportunity for a negotiated solution will be grasped, that the conditions for negotiations will be restored. What precise form the next steps in the Security Council will take is first and foremost a matter for discussion by the members of the Security Council. And of course the issue is already being discussed. The process is pretty complicated, as demonstrated by the difficult genesis of the Presidential Statement of 29 March. But participants on the Security Council - and other parties who have chosen to be involved such as Germany - must follow this difficult route of negotiation.

But do we not have to move carefully in order to keep Russia and China on our side?

That's precisely what we are doing, I think. And the way things have turned out the international community has remained united for longer that some people - and perhaps Tehran - expected. We must retain this unity into the future.