Germany views Iran as a potential threat not just to Israel, but also to European countries, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday at a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But she stopped short of endorsing her host's demand that Tehran give up all sensitive nuclear projects under any negotiated deal with world powers, and reiterated Berlin's opposition to Israeli settlements on occupied land where the Palestinians seek statehood.
"We see the threat not just as a threat for the state of Israel but as a general threat for Europe as well," she said of a potential Iranian bomb, adding that Germany would pursue international talks with Tehran on its nuclear activities.
"I think it's a mistake," he said. "Every single leader that I've talked to in the Middle East agrees with that position, whether they say so publicly or not. Why? Because if Iran really wants just civilian nuclear energy, then they don't need any enrichment. They don't need centrifuges."
Asked if she agreed, Merkel was circumspect.
"It is clear that there is a difference of opinion here with regard to these negotiations and whether they ought to take place. We have set out on the path of low enrichment, but enrichment does take place and I believe that we can succeed," she said.
"The question is whether we will be able to achieve a result that is better than the present state of affairs. We have decided it is better to participate in the negotiations because we believe that to be better than the status quo."
The United Nations and European Union deems the settlements illegal, a stand on which Merkel gave no ground in Jerusalem.
"For a two-state solution we need territorial integrity for the individual entities. In view of this, we regard the settlements question with concern and are not always of the same opinion" as Israel, she said.