AP: Iran is unlikely to accept European incentives aimed at getting it to suspend uranium enrichment, diplomats said today, raising the likelihood of a showdown with the UN nuclear watchdog agency next month. Envoys from Britain, France and Germany offered civilian nuclear technology and a trade deal to the Iranians in a private meeting at the French mission to international organisations in Vienna. But Western diplomats said they doubt the Tehran regime will back down easily. Associated Press
Vienna, Austria – Iran is unlikely to accept European incentives aimed at getting it to suspend uranium enrichment, diplomats said today, raising the likelihood of a showdown with the UN nuclear watchdog agency next month.
Envoys from Britain, France and Germany offered civilian nuclear technology and a trade deal to the Iranians in a private meeting at the French mission to international organisations in Vienna. But Western diplomats said they doubt the Tehran regime will back down easily.
The incentives included the promise of lucrative trade, a light-water nuclear research reactor and the chance to buy nuclear fuel from the West.
“The negotiations occurred in a friendly atmosphere,” Sirus Naseri, a member of the Iranian delegation, said. “We will go back to our capital to try to find a compromise which is acceptable to both sides.”
Amir-Hossein Zamaniyan, director-general of international affairs for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, would take the proposal back to Tehran for study, the Iranians said.
The offer came a day after President Mohammad Khatami said Iran would not give up uranium enrichment, which can be used both to generate electricity or build a nuclear weapon.
Iran insists its nuclear activities are peaceful and geared solely toward generating electric power. The United States contends that Tehran is running a covert nuclear weapons program.
On November 25, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board of governors will deliver a fresh assessment of Iran’s cooperation with the nuclear agency. The United States is pressing to report Iran’s noncompliance to the UN Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions.
Iran is unlikely to cave in quickly to demands that it suspend enrichment, a Western diplomat familiar with the nuclear agency’s dealings with Tehran said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Iran doesn’t react until the eve of the board meeting” with any significant concessions, said the official, who was not directly involved in today’s meeting.
Although the IAEA also had no hand in the European offer, agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei has said he welcomes any attempt to negotiate an end to the standoff – so long as Iran consents to continued comprehensive inspections that can verify it does not pose a nuclear proliferation threat.
The Bush administration – which labelled Iran part of an “axis of evil” along with North Korea and Iraq when it was still ruled by Saddam Hussein – said this week it did not endorse the European allies’ plan.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell told Abu Dhabi television today that “it is time for the matter to be referred to the Security Council unless there is a complete change in attitude on the part of the Iranians and they come into compliance with their obligation under IAEA strictures, and also in compliance with the commitments they made to the European Union”.
The British and German foreign ministers have urged Iran to indefinitely suspend its nuclear program. Iran has resumed testing, assembling and making centrifuges used to enrich uranium, heightening US concerns that its sole purpose is to build a bomb.
Iran’s long-range ballistic missile capabilities, combined with its nuclear know-how, pose a threat not only to Israel but to Europe, Israeli President Moshe Katsav said today in Vienna.
“Why does Iran need rockets with a range of 3000km? Why is Iran investing money in the development of weapons of mass destruction?” Mr Katsav said during the first visit to Austria by an Israeli head of state.
If Tehran does not accept the European incentives, suspend enrichment and agree to IAEA verification that it has done so, Britain, France and Germany likely would back the US push to report its defiance to the Security Council, diplomats said.
Experts say Iran has been building a heavy-water reactor, which would use plutonium that also could be used in a nuclear weapon. A light-water research reactor, by contrast, uses a lower grade of plutonium.