Monday, May 15, 2006

EU to Offer Civil Atomic Technology to Iran

Mark John, Reuters:
The European Union is ready to share the most sophisticated civilian nuclear technology with Iran if it agrees to halt uranium enrichment on its soil, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Monday.

But the initiative seemed likely to be rejected by Iran.

The EU plans to offer Tehran enhanced incentives to halt sensitive nuclear activities which the West suspects are aimed at producing a bomb, coupled with a U.N. resolution threatening possible sanctions if it refuses.

"We could help you (Iran) with the best and most sophisticated technology," Solana told a news conference after EU foreign ministers met to discuss the package.

Without giving details, he said the European offer -- which it hopes to present to Iran at the end of the month -- would go beyond the comprehensive package of technological, economic and political sweeteners rejected by Tehran last August. READ MORE

Diplomats said at the time that the original package included allowing Western companies to build nuclear power stations in Iran and supply fuel to them.

The 25-member bloc insisted in a joint statement that as a prerequisite for any incentive, Iran would have to agree to "suspend all enrichment related and reprocessing activity, including research and development."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pre-emptively ruled out any such trade-off on Sunday, while on Monday his foreign minister repeated the message.

"Any demand for a suspension or pause (of uranium enrichment) is an illogical and unacceptable demand and undoubtedly will be rejected," Manouchehr Mottaki told the ambassadors of Britain, France and Germany in Tehran.

The United States has agreed in principle to the EU presenting a new package offer to Iran, provided it accompanies a U.N. resolution paving the way for possible sanctions if Tehran does not suspend uranium enrichment activities.

Efforts to agree a U.N. resolution last week stalled in the U.N. Security Council amid opposition from Russia and China.


The EU statement acknowledged Iran's right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes but affirmed that it fully supported an U.N. resolution that would make legally binding international calls for it to suspend nuclear enrichment.

Ahmadinejad said Iran would not accept any EU offer if it included a demand that Tehran stop what he called peaceful nuclear activities.

"I am optimistic that there are still enough sensible people to respond positively to the offer and not in the same way as Ahmadinejad," said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Speaking after meeting South Korean officials in Seoul, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday called for urgent action on the Iranian nuclear dispute crisis but said he was encouraged by diplomatic efforts to resolve the stand-off.

The United States made clear on Sunday it had no intention of holding direct talks with Iran on the nuclear issue despite a letter to President George W. Bush last week from Ahmadinejad -- the first direct communication between the two countries' leaders for more than two decades.

Germany, which has in past weeks called on Washington to engage Iran directly, acknowledged there was little chance of Washington doing that.

"The United States have said it is out of the question," Steinmeier told reporters. British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said any such approach was up to Washington itself.

"What is important is that there is a clear, strong and consistent message from the international community," she said.

(Additional reporting by Carsten Lietz in Brussels and James Mackenzie in Paris)