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. US to host G8 talks on Iran nuclear incentives but holds firm on demands
WASHINGTON (AFP) Oct 12, 2004
The United States is willing to consider proposals to entice Iran into suspending uranium enrichment activities that can be used to make nuclear weapons but will not offer incentives itself and still wants the matter to be brought to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, US officials said Tuesday.

The State Department said it would host a meeting of senior diplomats from the United States and other members of the Group of Eight industrialized nations on Friday at which European ideas for convincing Tehran to halt its enrichment work would be the chief topic of discussion.

"They're going to come and tell us what kind of package and discussions they've been having and we'll hear them out," spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters. "We look forward to hearing their ideas about how to move forward."

He described the meeting as one at which the G8 would "share ideas about how to bring Iran into compliance" with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) demands that it immediately halt enrichment activity.

On Monday, EU foreign ministers said the European Union was ready to renew dialogue with Iran on a host of issues, including trade, if Tehran suspends uranium enrichment activities and described EU policy toward Tehran as one of "engagement with a large number of incentives."

A diplomat close to the IAEA said Tuesday a package offer, spearheaded by Britain, France and Germany, giving Iran access to imported nuclear fuel in return for totally suspending its own work on the nuclear fuel cycle, was under consideration.

In Iran, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi called on the European Union to come up with proposals that could end the stand-off, but repeated Tehran's refusal to give up sensitive fuel cycle work even as an IAEA deadline to do so looms in November.

One State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the European heavyweights were trying now "to get as much G8 endorsement as they can" in order to make it "that much more difficult for Iran to say no."

Despite its decision to host Friday's meeting, Boucher insisted the United States is not wavering from its hardline policy toward the Iranian nuclear program and remained convinced that the Security Council should act on it.

"The United States position has been and remains that this matter needs to be referred to the UN Security Council," he said.

The State Department official said that the United States might be willing to back the EU position if the Europeans would agree to work with the United States on taking Iran to the Security Council if Tehran refused.

But, the official stressed that the United States would not look favorably on a proposal that would give Iran "any wriggling room to get off the hook."

Friday's meeting will occur amid the highly charged US presidential election campaign in which policy over Iran's nuclear program has become a subject of heated debate.

Democratic challenger John Kerry has berated President George W. Bush for failing to deal with Tehran while going to war with Iraq on faulty intelligence.

Bush has refused to offer Iran incentives to give up its alleged ambitions while Kerry has said striking a deal with Iran would be the best way to resolve the matter.

Diplomats in Vienna, where the IAEA is headquartered, say the Bush administration has not yet signed off on any package and is reluctant to be involved in defining any possible incentives during the campaign season.

One diplomat said Washington was unlikely to commit until after the November 2 election. "The day after the election, things will be clearer," the diplomat said.

The G8 comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

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