New York Times: The world’s major powers agreed in London on Friday to offer Iran modest new incentives to coax it to freeze important nuclear activities.
The New York Times
By ELAINE SCIOLINO
Published: May 3, 2008
PARIS — The world’s major powers agreed in London on Friday to offer Iran modest new incentives to coax it to freeze important nuclear activities.
The agreement was reached at a meeting that brought together Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and senior officials from Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.
“We’ve got an agreement on an offer that will be made to the government of Iran,” David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, said for the six governments.
The offer underscores a growing consensus that the current policy of punishing Iran into submission with sanctions has failed.
Instead of backing down, Iran has steadily increased production of enriched uranium, which can be used both to produce energy and to make bombs.
Even more worrisome, Iran has begun to test a new generation of more reliable and faster centrifuges, the machines used in uranium enrichment at its site at Natanz, in central Iran. That step has given new impetus to pursuing a strategy that offers the Iranians economic, political, technological and security rewards.
Still, there is an inherent problem in this approach: it requires Iran to do what it has consistently refused to do: suspend its production of enriched uranium.
Iran insists that its uranium enrichment is devoted solely to producing fuel for nuclear reactors that generate electricity.
Mr. Miliband said the new offer was part of the group’s “twin-track strategy,” which included a third set of sanctions against Iran by the Security Council in March. But he reminded Iran that the group had made an offer “showing the benefits of engagement and cooperation with the international community.”
The new incentives were described by participants in the meeting as very modest, building on a formal proposal presented to Iran in Tehran in June 2006 by Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief.
That proposal, Annex II of resolution 1747, included a promise to support construction of light-water nuclear reactors, the sale of commercial planes to Iran, a conference on regional security issues, a long-term energy agreement between Iran on one side and the European Union and other partners on the other, and economic and trade cooperation.
Iran at first welcomed that proposal, but then dismissed it because it would have required the country to suspend its uranium enrichment activities.
Those at the meeting on Friday said the new proposal again highlighted the willingness of the big powers to help Iran develop its own modern nuclear energy program by supplying it with light-water reactors to produce electricity, a major concession by Washington, which has resisted moves that could give the impression of rewarding Iran.
Though they did not provide details, participants said the new proposal added clarity to the 2006 package, including new language on political cooperation with Iran, an elaboration of the idea of an international conference on regional security and stronger cooperation on energy.
“It’s more than repackaging,” one participant said. “It reaffirms what we already offered, clarifies some points and strengthens others.” The participants spoke on condition of anonymity under normal diplomatic rules.
In his statement, Mr. Miliband said the six officials had dedicated themselves to “reviewing and updating” the 2006 proposal, adding that the details of the offer would be disclosed only to Iran.
The new offer was, in part, a gesture by the United States and its European partners to Russia and China in exchange for their willingness to go along with the Security Council resolution in March, participants said.
The two countries have argued for some time that the incentives offered to Iran were insufficient to persuade it to step back from a program that has become a source of national pride, and that further pressure on Iran would only intensify the standoff.
But there is no agreement by the world powers on whether any gesture can bend the will of Iran, which is flush with oil revenues and has agreed to help resolve with the International Atomic Energy Agency the remaining questions about its suspicious past nuclear activities.
The United States agreed to review the package as a condition for winning approval for new sanctions in March, but Ms. Rice has said she does not believe that Iran will be interested.