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. US says Iran offer more carrot than stick
WASHINGTON, June 15 (AFP) Jun 16, 2006
The White House indicated Thursday that the proposal meant to end the crisis over Iran's nuclear programs was heavy on incentives to freeze sensitive nuclear activities, not possible punishments for refusing.

"The focus at this point in time, of course, is trying to show to the Iranian regime a positive path that is available to it, and to the Iranian people," national security adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters.

Hadley's comments were in line with a New York Times report that the package agreed to by the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany and presented to Iran by European foreign-policy chief Javier Solana had no threat of sanctions, just incentives to freeze uranium enrichment and reprocessing.

The daily reported that Solana had verbally informed the Iranians of the possible repercussions of refusing to freeze such activities, which is a condition for resuming talks on Tehran's nuclear program.

"The goal here is to try and show to the Iranians an affirmative path if they will suspend and return to the negotiations. But I think it's also very clear that there is another path if they refuse to do so, and that is a path that will involve consequences for the government," said Hadley.

Hadley, US President George W. Bush's national security adviser, said the United States and its partners agreed that Iran's failure to agree would mean taking Tehran before the UN Security Council.

"There has been discussions about the kind of measures that might be adopted if Iran does not make the choice that we hope it will make. That's already been discussed," he said.

Hadley refused to set a deadline for Iran's reply, saying: "The president and secretary of state have said is weeks, not months. But weeks, not days. And we're kind of in that zone at this point in time."

The six countries dealing with Iran are thought to expect an answer before the late-June meeting of the foreign ministers of the Group of Eight -- seven major industrialized countries plus Russia.

But the topic is expected to loom large at next weeks US-European Union summit in Vienna, Hadley said, while stressing: "I don't expect any news out of this."

Earlier, White House spokesman Tony Snow suggested that Iran's talks with Russia and China on its nuclear program might be an attempt to divide the United States and its partners and predicted that it would fail.

"It's safe to say that they'll try to test the unity of the P-5 plus one, but everybody's agreed," Snow said, referring to the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain plus Germany.

Those countries, after much diplomatic maneuvering, united this month behind an incentives package meant to ensure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons. Tehran denies that it seeks an atomic arsenal.

Asked whether Iran was trying to divide the United States and its partners, Snow later said: "I'm not going to get into that. But you'd expect them, as a negotiating tactic, to see if there is any daylight (between the partners)."

"There isn't," said Snow, who seized on Russian President Vladimir Putin's assessment that Iran "is ready to begin talks" as suggesting that Tehran had agreed to Washington's precondition of freezing sensitive nuclear activities.

"In our view, 'ready to negotiate' means meeting that first condition, which is suspending enrichment-related and reprocessing activities," said Snow. "They have to take that first necessary step."

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