Iran Nuclear NewsU.S. Supports European Offer to Iran on Its Nuclear...

U.S. Supports European Offer to Iran on Its Nuclear Program

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New York Times: The United States gave its explicit support
on Friday to a European proposal to defuse the West’s confrontation with Iran over what is suspected of being its nuclear weapons program, while in Tehran the Iranian government received the proposal and said it would study its contents before commenting. “I can say that we very much support the E.U. 3’s negotiating effort,” said R. Nicholas Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs, referring to the proposal put together by Britain, France and Germany under the auspices of the European Union. New York Times

By STEVEN R. WEISMAN

WASHINGTON – The United States gave its explicit support on Friday to a European proposal to defuse the West’s confrontation with Iran over what is suspected of being its nuclear weapons program, while in Tehran the Iranian government received the proposal and said it would study its contents before commenting.

“I can say that we very much support the E.U. 3’s negotiating effort,” said R. Nicholas Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs, referring to the proposal put together by Britain, France and Germany under the auspices of the European Union. “We hope that this diplomatic process will continue. We hope that Iran will look at this proposal seriously.”

The proposal offers Iran the possibility of acquiring nuclear reactors and fuel, and of establishing broad political and economic ties with the West, in return for ending uranium conversion and enrichment activities that the West suspects are part of a nuclear weapons program. Iran insists that its nuclear activities are intended for energy production, which it says is its right to pursue.

Although Iran had no immediate response to the proposal, Western diplomats have said they expect Tehran initially to reject the proposal, which would take years to negotiate and carry out.

American and European officials said they were focused Friday on a more immediate problem – Iran’s announced intention to resume the conversion of raw uranium into a gas that could be enriched for eventual use as a nuclear fuel. Iran voluntarily suspended the process last year pending negotiations with the Europeans about its nuclear programs.

The American and European officials, speaking on the condition that they not be identified, said they expected the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna to meet Tuesday to discuss the issue.

If Iran does resume its uranium activities, a move to refer the matter to the United Nations Security Council for possible economic or political penalties could be discussed, the officials said.

A senior State Department official said there was broad agreement among board members of the atomic energy agency that resuming the conversion activities would constitute a breach of Iran’s obligations. Other Western diplomats said, however, they were not sure the United States could get the agency’s board to act against Iran.

In Paris, French officials confirmed details of the European proposal, the contents of which were reported in The New York Times on Friday.

“This offer is very important, this offer is generous and this offer is very innovative,” said one official, speaking under ground rules in France by which he not be identified.

“Ideally what we are waiting for is for them to study very carefully this document,” he said. “Every word has been carefully chosen by us three in consultation with our industries. This proposal offers a very large spectrum of cooperation.”

The senior State Department official said the United States did not agree with all aspects of the proposal, but he declined to be more specific. He said the United States had not addressed what steps it might need to take to improve its relationship with Iran to let the Europeans pursue their proposed improvements in trade preferences, technology cooperation and security guarantees.

“The U.S. is not a party to these negotiations, but we’re supportive of the process,” he said. He said he was not trying to disassociate the Bush administration from the proposals and added: “We agree with the major thrust of this proposal. We think it’s a good proposal.”

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