Iran Says Western Proposal ‘Positive’


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

 Jun 6, 2006 9:00 pm US/Eastern
Iran Says Western Proposal 'Positive'

(AP) TEHRAN, Iran Iran and the United States had a rare moment of agreement 
Tuesday, using similar language to describe "positive steps" toward an accord on
a package of incentives aimed at persuading Tehran to suspend uranium 

Diplomats said the incentives include a previously undisclosed offer of some 
U.S. nuclear technology on top of European help in building light-water nuclear 
reactors. Other incentives include allowing Iran to buy spare airplane parts and
support for joining the World Trade Organization.

Tehran is under intense international pressure to accept the deal in exchange 
for putting on hold a uranium enrichment program that the West fears could lead 
to the creation of nuclear weapons.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said the proposals had "positive 
steps" but that talks were needed to clear up ambiguities. Iran promised to 
study the proposals seriously, but gave no timeframe for a response.

And Bush, using the same language, said Iran's initial response "sounds like a 
positive step."

"We will see if the Iranians take our offer seriously," the president said in 
Laredo, Texas. "The choice is theirs to make. I have said the United States will
come and sit down at the table with them so long as they are willing to suspend 
their enrichment in a verifiable way."

One diplomat in Vienna described the U.S. offer of nuclear technology as 
particularly significant because it would, in effect, loosen a decades-long 
American embargo on giving Iran access to "dual use" technologies ‹ equipment 
with both civilian and military use.

Crucially, the deal does not demand that Iran outright give up its uranium 
enrichment program ‹ only suspend it, although likely for a long time. Two 
earlier diplomatic initiatives by Europe and Russia crumbled over the past year 
because each demanded Iran scrap enrichment completely ‹ a stumbling block 
because of the program's wide popularity with the Iranian public.

Iran's leaders fiercely defend their nuclear program as a source of intense 
national pride, and say the purpose of the enrichment program is to create fuel 
for electricity ‹ not nuclear weapons, as the U.S. claims.

Enrichment is the centerpiece of a nuclear program that the Iranian government 
has touted as a technological achievement, proving Iran is on a level with 
developed Western nations. Iran has dismissed past demands that it give up its 
right to enrichment as an arrogant insult from Western nations afraid of a 
high-tech Muslim nation. But it has signaled it would accept some limits.

For the West, enrichment is the center of fears over Iran's intentions. 
Enrichment can produce either material for a nuclear warhead or fuel for a 
nuclear reactor.

The latest proposal was revealed a week after Washington changed strategy on 
Iran and ‹ in an apparent acknowledgment that it lacked support for sanctions 
against the Islamic republic ‹ conceded to entering into direct talks with Iran 
under certain conditions. The latest proposal appeared to be even more of a 
concession on the Bush administration's part ‹ a major attempt to sweeten the 
package for Iran in a bid to win concessions over the nuclear program.

Most importantly, the United States is now offering to provide Iran some nuclear
technology, diplomats in Vienna told The Associated Press. They spoke on 
condition of anonymity in exchange for discussing some details of the package.

It had been known that the deal included European offers of help in building 
light-water nuclear reactors for a peaceful energy program. But there had 
previously been no suggestion the Americans would also agree to help build a 
nuclear program for a country they frequently paint as a threat to world 

John Wolfsthal, a nonproliferation analyst at the Center for Strategic and 
International Studies in Washington, said any such offer would be tied to strict
monitoring conditions.

"Iran has to be fully compliant in terms of inspectors on site, cameras and 
tracking equipment," Wolfsthal said. "All that is standard operating procedure 
with countries with light-water reactors."

In Washington, State Department Sean McCormack declined to go into specifics of 
the proposal. He said diplomacy "is at a sensitive stage" and the United States 
wants Iran to have a chance to review the proposal without having it discussed 

He refused to offer a time frame, but said the Iran's timetable to consider the 
package was "weeks, not months."

Asked about reports that the offer of Western technology includes U.S. 
technological assistance, McCormack said: "Well, I've seen a lot of reports 
flying around the past couple days about what may or may not be in this package.
I would just caution everybody, until we actually are able to discuss what is in
the package in public, take reports with a grain of salt."

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity in exchange for discussing 
details, said that the United States and Europe agreed to back Iran's membership
in the World Trade Organization,

The United States would also lift some sanctions ‹ including allowing Iran to 
buy the much-needed airplane parts ‹ and join with Europeans in direct 
negotiations with Iran over the future of Iran's nuclear program.

Diplomats said Monday that the United States additionally agreed to open the 
door for Europe to sell Tehran new Airbus planes. Iran's commercial fleet is 
largely made up of Boeings purchased before the 1979 revolution, and Tehran 
frequently complains that the U.S. ban on parts has undermined safety. U.S. 
pressure has also prevented Iranian attempts to purchase new Airbus aircraft.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana presented the package to 
Iranian officials Tuesday in Tehran.

"The proposals contain positive steps and also some ambiguities, which must be 
removed," Larijani said afterward.

Larijani did not identify the ambiguities but said he discussed them with Solana
and that more talks would be required. "We hope we will have negotiations and 
deliberations again after we have carefully studied the proposals," he said.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran would give the proposals "careful 
study" and then "we will inform our friends of Iran's views."

Solana said of the meeting: "I have a feeling that it has been very, very 
constructive," and said the two sides would have more contacts in the coming 

In the talks, Solana also "carried a message" about potential penalties if Iran 
refuses the offer. But he withheld telling the Iranians the specific threats ‹ 
including the possibility of U.N. sanctions ‹ so as not to jeopardize the 
"positive" atmosphere, said one diplomat in Vienna.

If Tehran does not accept, the package threatens Iran with a travel ban against 
its ruling religious leaders and government officials involved in the nuclear 
program, plus a freeze of Iranian financial assets abroad, U.S. officials and 
diplomats in Vienna have said.

The current package's lack of a demand for scrapping enrichment entirely could 
prove key, said Iranian political analyst Mostafa Kavakebian, who predicted Iran
would accept temporary suspension of uranium enrichment but would reject any 
permanent halt.

In past days, Iranian leaders have combined tough talk with signals that they 
are open to a deal ‹ perhaps an attempt to portray to the Iranian public that 
they remain firm, even as they consider reversing their refusal to suspend 

© 2006 The Associated Press.

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