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Europe offers Iran nuclear incentives

London Guardian | August 5, 2005
By Mark Oliver and agencies

A package of European proposals reportedly offering incentives in return for Iran's commitment not to develop nuclear bombs was handed over to Tehran today.

But there were fears the negotiations were on the point of collapse after Iranian officials indicated that their initial assessment was that the proposals did not meet their requirements, Reuters reported.

There has been no official confirmation of what the proposals, by the so-called EU3 of Britain, Germany and France, contain, but analysts said there did not appear to be any movement on the most contentious issue of whether Iran can enrich its own uranium.

An Iranian source cited by Reuters said the EU3, which has been negotiating on behalf of the EU with the tacit backing of Washington, had offered to allow Western companies to build nuclear power stations in Iran and supply them with fuel, an idea that has been touted before.

Washington has claimed that Iran wants to build a nuclear bomb but Tehran has consistently insisted that it wants nuclear power stations to meet its booming electricity demand. The logic of an EU3 offer of Western-built nuclear power stations is that Iran could meet electricity demands without having access to its own nuclear fuel, which could be used to make a bomb.

But all the indications today were that Iran would push on with its own nuclear plans, which could deepen the crisis and lead to the EU3 referring the matter to the UN security council for possible sanctions.

Reuters reported that one senior Iranian negotiator, Hossein Mousavian, said today that Iran would restart work at the hugely controversial uranium conversion plant near the city of Isfahan regardless of the proposals.

"Even if their proposals do not allow the resumption of work at Isfahan, we will resume activities," he said.

On Tuesday, the EU said that if Iran resumed uranium processing at Isfahan this would bring to an end two years of talks.

A day later, the UN's nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), urged Iran not to resume uranium conversion until the agency could set up a system to monitor the activity.

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Hasan Rowhani, responded to the UN request by saying Tehran would push back the reopening of the plant until early next week to give the IAEA time to install surveillance equipment inside the facility.

Today, France's foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, said the IAEA will now convene in the middle of next week to talk about Iran and the EU3 proposals.

Mr Douste-Blazy said that he believed the EU3 proposals opened up "new perspectives" and were "ambitious and generous".

He told Europe-1 radio: "I hope that Iran will hear the voice of reason and that it will take the path of negotiation and dialogue, and that it will not move toward a resumption of nuclear activities.

"We are even ready to support a civilian, but of course, non-proliferating, nuclear programme." The EU3 proposals are understood to have been delivered to Tehran's foreign ministry by French, British and German ambassadors this morning.

They also include a number of trade incentives. An Iranian source told the Associated Press that the EU had offered to support Iran as the main transit route for oil and gas from Central Asia.

But French analyst Bruno Tetrais said the offer was not likely to make concessions on the crucial issue of Iran's demand that it be able to enrich uranium for nuclear power.

"Even though we don't know all the details, nothing indicates that this offer will be fundamentally different from the various proposals that have been floated around in the past six months," said Mr Tetrais of the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research think-tank.

"This means that it would be very surprising if Iran suddenly accepted the whole proposal and therefore renounced its enrichment capabilities," he said.

Uranium conversion, which Iran agreed to suspend along with other sensitive nuclear activities under a November deal with the three EU countries, is the step before enrichment, which can purify uranium to the levels needed to fuel nuclear reactors or bombs.

Today's New York Times reported that diplomats familiar with the European offer said that it presented a "full spectrum" of relationships for Iran with the West. The diplomats said that that spectrum ranged from technology sharing to trade preferences, to security guarantees as a reward for pledges from Tehran on nuclear weapons, human rights and terrorism.

The newspaper said that Bush administration officials could not comment on the contents of the proposal, except to say that they approved of it.



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