German Foreign Minister in Japan, hints at sanctions against Iran

Germany 's foreign minister said Tuesday that Iran may face sanctions if Tehran fails to make a "reasonable" decision on its nuclear program, but added that the international community should try all diplomatic options before deciding on penalties.

"If there is no progress in talks with the Iranian government ... we will turn to the United Nations Security Council, which means a step toward economic sanctions," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said during a press conference in Tokyo .

"But that does not mean we will sanction Iran right away," he said.

"It is important that we use all diplomatic options and be creative," he said. "We hope that Iran will make a reasonable final decision."

His comments come as Iranian and Russian officials wound up two-day talks in Moscow on a Russian offer to conduct uraniurm enrichment for Iran in an effort to assure the international community that the material is not diverted for weapons use.

Iran 's top negotiator, Ali Hosseinitash, described the talks as "positive," Russia 's Interfax news agency reported.

"There are elements in these negotiations which give us grounds for hope that we will reach an agreement," Interfax quoted him as saying.

Moscow 's offer is widely seen as the last chance for Iran to address concerns about its nuclear program before an International Atomic Energy Agency meeting on March 6 that could start a process leading to U.N. sanctions. Iran insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Foreign Minister Taro Aso said that he and Steinmeier, who is on a three-day visit to Japan, agreed the international community needs to cooperate to solve Iran 's nuclear issue.

"We agreed that the global community should work together toward a diplomatic and peaceful solution of this issue," the Japanese foreign minister told a joint press conference.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi invited Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel to visit Japan , during a meeting with Steinmeier, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The German foreign minister responded by saying that he will convey Koizumi's message to Chancellor to visit Tokyo at an early date, according to the ministry.

Steinmeier will visit China on Wednesday, the last leg of his Asian trip with a delegation of German business leaders, which kicked off Saturday with a stop in South Korea , reports the AP.


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