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Senior German politician urges patience with Iran

Written by: Staff

WASHINGTON, Apr 24 (Reuters) More patience is needed to deal with Iran over its nuclear program and sanctions are unlikely to work, a senior German lawmaker said today, underlining differences with Washington over Tehran.

Ruprecht Polenz, chairman of the German parliament's foreign affairs committee and a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, also said the United States should hold direct talks with Tehran to ease the nuclear crisis, which escalated this month after Iran began enriching uranium.

The United States is pushing for the United Nations to impose sanctions against Iran but is having problems winning support even from a strong ally such as Germany.

China and Russia, veto-wielding members of the Security Council, also oppose such punitive measures.

''It is at least doubtful that these sanctions would be sufficient to change Iranian policy. I would prefer a way to deal differently with Iran,'' Polenz told reporters.

''I think we have the time to be patient,'' he added.

Polenz, who is set to visit Iran on May 1 after meeting senior US officials while in Washington this week, said there would also have to be broad consensus from Arab states and others for sanctions to work.

Ultimately, he said discussions over Iran needed to be expanded to include Arab nations.

So far, European powers Germany, England and France have taken the lead in negotiating with Tehran, which denies its nuclear program is for military use and says it is for civilian power purposes only.

The United States has said all options, including the threat of military action, are on the table against Iran, but Polenz said the time was not right for a military strike, especially as Tehran was at least four or more years away from building a nuclear bomb.

''I think it is seen as a non-useful step,'' he said of the threat of military action.

In addition, the United States should speak to Iran in a bid to ease the crisis, echoing calls even among influential Republicans in the United States for the Bush administration to hold direct talks with Tehran.

''I have been trying to convince my American friends for eight to 10 years to come to a more direct relationship with Tehran,'' he said.

The UN Security Council is awaiting a report from the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, before deciding what action to take against Iran. The report is set to be released this week.

Reuters SHB VP2250

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