US and Europe to offer new nuclear proposal to Iran: report
WASHINGTON (AFP) Nov 10, 2005
Washington, London, Paris, and Berlin will make a new offer to Iran to avoid a confrontation over its suspected nuclear weapons program, The New York Times said Thursday quoting US and European officials.
The proposal would let Iran conduct very limited nuclear activities on its territory, but would have it move all uranium enrichment processes to Russia, the officials said.
The offer was discussed at a meeting here Tuesday between US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, who has agreed to present it to the Iranians, they added.
Rice, according to the officials, urged that Iran be given a two-week deadline for its response, which should come before the IAEA board meets on November 24.
Iran has resisted international pressure to give up its uranium enrichment program, insisting it is intended for peaceful purposes only and not for making nuclear weapons, which the United States suspects the Islamic nation is seeking to develop.
On September 24, the IAEA passed a British-French-German resolution stating, for the first time since the IAEA began investigating Iran in February 2003, that Tehran was in "non-compliance" with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), mainly for hiding sensitive atomic activities for almost two decades.
A finding of non-compliance is an automatic trigger for taking the matter to the Security Council, which can impose sanctions, but could be difficult to implement because it lacks support from Russia and China, who have veto power on the Council.
The Times said the new proposal would allow Iran to continue converting uranium into a gaseous form, known as UF6, but would have it shipped to Russia to be enriched for use in nuclear reactors.
Rice and ElBaradei talked about letting Iran take a financial stake in an enrichment facility in Russia, who in turn would ensure that the uranium sent back to Iran would not be usable in a weapon, the officials told the newspaper.
The move would give Iran a face-saving way out of the standoff because it could argue that it has not given up what it contends is its right under the NTP to enrich uranium, but has simply chosen to do it at a foreign facility, officials said.
The offer, however, has "deeply divided" the US administration, the daily said.
"The problem with this offer is that if the Iranians have a secret enrichment plant someplace that we don't know about, we're leaving them with the raw material they need," said a senior American official who contends that the new proposal is flawed.
"But the thinking was that the West has to show we are willing to break the logjam," added the official who was not identified.
Another senior official involved in developing the proposal -- the daily did not say whether he was American or European -- was pessimistic about Iran's response.
"Our expectations are low that the Iranians will accept," the official said.All rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.