Merkel, Sarkozy to discuss Iran after Bush visits

The leaders of Germany and France meet on Monday to compare notes on dealing with Iran’s nuclear programme, fresh from discussing tougher sanctions during separate visits to United States President George Bush last week.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will host French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Berlin for the talks a week before an expected meeting of world powers to assess reports on Iran’s nuclear programme.

Merkel said after meeting Bush on Saturday that, if there was no sign of progress in talks with Iran, then “we need to think about further possible sanctions”. Sarkozy said after meeting Bush last Wednesday there was “a need to toughen the sanctions”.

The West accuses Iran of seeking to develop a nuclear weapon but Tehran says its nuclear programme is purely for the civilian purpose of generating electricity.

Bush alarmed some European allies last month when he said a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to World War III. The Bush administration insists it is committed to pursuing diplomacy with Iran, but also says all options are on the table.

Britain, France, Germany, the United States, Russia and China are expected to meet on November 19 to assess reports on Iran from European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei.

“If the reports remain unsatisfactory ...
we need to think about further possible sanctions,” Merkel said on Saturday.

European integration will be high on the agenda at the latest round of regular Merkel-Sarkozy meetings. Although the two conservative leaders are united on many policy issues, the French leader’s combative style has grated on Berlin officials.

Merkel and Sarkozy will be joined by their full Cabinets of ministers for the talks.

The French and German foreign ministers will record a “rhythm and blues” song on European integration on the sidelines of the meeting.

Fun aside, the two countries will try to sort out their differences on financing for Europe’s planned satellite navigation system, Galileo, which aims to compete with the US Global Positioning System (GPS).

Germany has resisted agreeing to using European Union public funding to plug a hole in the project’s budget, largely because it wants a guarantee that German firms will get a major share of the work, building satellites and launchers. - Reuters

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