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Iran unveils 'global challenges' plan as nuclear talks slow

In an effort to persuade Iran to suspend enrichment, permanent Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany have been re-working an offer of incentives originally made in 2006.
by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) May 14, 2008
Iran presented Wednesday proposals to tackle "global challenges" in a bid to seize the diplomatic initiative as world powers argue over the best way to convince Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment.

The proposals on ways to deal with terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and the Middle East conflict come as major powers are divided over whether to offer security guarantees to entice Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.

But the package, released in Brussels, at the United Nations, and other world capitals, does not directly address the nuclear issue and fears in the West that the Islamic Republic could build an atomic bomb.

"We have presented a wider approach, beyond the nuclear issue," said Iran's ambassador to the European Union, Aliasghar Khaji. "It gives you a general picture on how to deal with the question of peace and security in the world."

He said he had not been given permission to go into details.

However he added: "We believe that if some countries take our proposals seriously, and if they try to work together to address common concerns, another resolution could be avoided" at the UN Security Council.

The United States said Tuesday that it was expecting little of substance.

"Given the track record, if they continue on the trend and pathway that they've been on, I don't think anybody's going to hold their breath," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

A European diplomat said the proposals were: "public relations, that's all."

Iran insists it has the right to enrich uranium to make nuclear fuel to help meet its electricity needs and has so far defied Security Council resolutions which demand it halt the process.

At highly refined levels, such work can also make the fissile core of a bomb but Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful and has vehemently denied that it is seeking to make weapons.

In an effort to persuade Iran to suspend enrichment, permanent Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany have been re-working an offer of incentives originally made in 2006.

EU diplomats say the "reviewed and updated" offer contains little new.

The European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it would contain "a little more on the economic front and in terms of energy, but barely. It's mainly an update, a re-organisation".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the top powers -- the so-called 5+1 group -- to give Iran security guarantees to help resolve the crisis, after talks with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

He said they "could put concrete proposals on the table guaranteeing the security of Iran and ensuring Iran a worthy, equal place in talks on resolving all problems in the near and Middle East," RIA Novosti news agency reported.

"Unfortunately not all members of the 'six' are prepared for this, but I am convinced that this is an effective way to remove the tension in the region and resolve the situation around the Iranian nuclear problem," he said.

Russia has relatively close ties to Iran and has built the Islamic Republic's first nuclear power station, for which it is also supplying the uranium fuel.

But the United States is known to oppose such a move, as it would take away some considerable leverage to force change, beyond the sanctions.

With Russia, and possibly others, out of step on how much to offer and US elections looming, the whole process could be bogged down for some time.

"I can't see anything moving forward," the diplomat said. "Things could be blocked until the end of the year."

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US expects little from Iran on world problems
Washington (AFP) May 13, 2008
The United States expects little from proposals that Iran presented in Brussels to resolve world problems, including nuclear energy, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Tuesday.

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