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Germany's Merkel calls for unity on Iran

By Staff
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NEW YORK, May 4 (Reuters) German Chancellor Angela Merkel today called for a united front to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, with no repeat of the European disunity that preceded the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

European powers were split in the months ahead of the invasion, with Britain, Italy and Spain lining up behind US President George W Bush, while France and Germany refused to support the war.

With Russia and China also opposed, the United States failed to get a UN Security Council resolution specifically authorizing military action and countries that opposed the war refused to send troops to help the Americans.

Now the West is returning to the Security Council with a resolution introduced by the United States, Britain and France on Wednesday demanding Iran halt uranium enrichment that they suspect forms part of a secret nuclear weapons program.

''We have learned the lessons of the Iraq conflict. One of these lessons is that divisions ... weaken Europe. We can't give dictators the sense that the democratic world is divided over how to deal with them,'' Merkel said at a forum for US and German business leaders during a visit to New York.

''I think it is very important that this view be shared by all of us, including Russia, that everything must be done to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,'' she said.

Merkel, leader of the conservative Christian Democratic Party, replaced Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder as chancellor last year.

In the West's campaign to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, European Union members Germany, France and Britain have provided a European front on Iran while also working work closely with Washington.

The Security Council resolution introduced by the United States, Britain and France on Wednesday threatens to consider unspecified ''further measures as may be necessary'' to ensure Iran's compliance.

Russia and China, the other two permanent members of the Security Council, expressed opposition to the text and have veto power over it.

Reuters VJ VP0200

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