Iran official has nuclear talks in Germany

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BERLIN, Sep 19 (Reuters) German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met a top Iranian security official today for informal talks about the West's nuclear standoff with Tehran, a ministry spokesman said.

Hassan Rohani is a member of the Supreme National Security Council and Tehran's former nuclear negotiator.

''It was an informal conversation,'' German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger told reporters in Berlin. ''They talked about bilateral questions, the role of Iran in the region and the nuclear conflict.'' Jaeger gave no further details about the conversation with Rohani, who negotiated with France, Britain and Germany for two years until Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad replaced him after his election in 2005.

The US and France have called for tougher sanctions against Iran for refusing to freeze its nuclear programme.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted today diplomacy with ''teeth'' was the focus of US efforts but Washington has not ruled out military action against Iran should such a route fail.

Rohani was originally planning to continue to Brussels for talks with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana but Solana's office said Rohani cancelled for ''time reasons''.

Western nations suspect Iran's nuclear programme is a front for developing atomic weapons. Iran rejects the charge and says its programme is only for the generation of electricity.

The UN Security Council has already slapped two rounds of sanctions on Iran for refusing suspend its enrichment programme.

Washington is hosting a meeting of six world powers on Friday to discuss a third sanctions resolution. Some diplomats say Berlin would prefer not to rush into more sanctions.

European diplomats have often said Rohani, unlike his successor Ali Larijani, seemed committed to a deal with the West. Other Western diplomats, however, say he once publicly boasted about how he used talks with Europe to buy time to press ahead with Iran's nuclear programme.

If the Security Council fails to agree on a new sanctions resolution, the French want the other 26 EU members to approve separate EU sanctions against the Islamic Republic, an idea that European diplomats say some EU countries might oppose.

REUTERS GL ND2340

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