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. EU Three to offer Iran nuclear incentives next week, US stands firm on demands
WASHINGTON (AFP) Oct 15, 2004
Britain, France and Germany told the United States on Friday they will offer Iran incentives next week to persuade it to halt uranium enrichment activities that could be used to make nuclear weapons in a bid to avoid a showdown over UN sanctions.

The so-called "EU Three" will offer the package of inducements as a November 25 deadline looms for Iran to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency demands to suspend the uranium enrichment work and come clean about its nuclear ambitions or be referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, the State Department said.

"The EU Three have indicated they will be presenting their ideas to Iran next week," said Tom Casey, a spokesman for the State Department, where senior diplomats from the United States and other members of the Group of Eight industrialized nations discussed the topic.

Diplomatic sources say the European package would give Iran access to imported nuclear fuel and other perks in return for a total suspension of its own work on the nuclear fuel cycle.

However, US officials stressed that Washington had not endorsed the proposals and held firm to its position that Iran's past violations of its international commitments should be sent to the Security Council for action even if Tehran meets the deadline.

"The United States has long made clear its views that Iran's confirmed non-compliance with safeguard obligations must be reported by the IAEA board to the UN Security Council," Casey said. "We reaffirmed to our G8 partners that Iran should not be allowed to defy any longer the (IAEA) requirements," he said.

A senior US official said Friday's meeting had not produced any joint G8 decision on how to proceed with Iran which the United States accuses of secretly developing nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian atomic power program.

"They came, we saw and we conferred but we didn't decide on any new course of action," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that there was no "backsliding" on the IAEA deadline for Iran.

"Iran has to fully comply by November and if they don't then we'll take appropriate steps," the official said. "Between now and then, the Europeans may have their ideas but that doesn't prejudice our position and what we think the course of action should be if they don't comply."

Iran insists its nuclear program is purely for civilian energy purposes but a top Iranian lawmaker said Thursday his country would bar international nuclear inspections if debate on its program moved to the UN Security Council as Washington wants.

Under terms of an accord signed late last year with Germany, France and Britain, Iran pledged to suspend uranium enrichment activities and accept unannounced inspections of its nuclear facilities.

However, it has since resumed work on centrifuges key to the enrichment process and backtracked on its commitment to inspections, claiming the Europeans have not made good on their end of the deal.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, represented the United States at Friday's meeting that included diplomats from the other G8 members -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia.

The meeting had been billed by the State Department as an opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas at which no decisions would be made, but diplomatic sources said it was also intended to demonstrate the international community's concern about Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.

US diplomats have said a softening of Washington's hardline policy against Tehran is not being considered, but analysts believe some incentives might be in the offing if Iran shows good will on the issue.

The sources said Washington is not likely to seek a more open dialogue with Tehran on the matter until after the November 2 presidential election here, rather than risk a political storm as voters head to the polls.

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.

Examination of Iran's nuclear program by the UN Security Council would be a first step to imposing UN economic sanctions against the Islamic republic, something Russia, which has veto power at the council, is likely to oppose because of its deep economic ties with the country.

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