Tuesday, June 06, 2006

EU Hands Nuclear Proposal to Iran, 'Good' Talks Held

Yahoo News:
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has handed Iran an international proposal on the nuclear crisis and the two sides held "good" talks, the Islamic republic's national security chief said. "We had a little more than two hours of discussions," Ali Larijani told reporters.

"They submitted the proposals and the discussions were good. We have to examine these proposals and then we will give our response." READ MORE

Solana arrived in Tehran overnight Monday to hand over the proposal, which was drawn up by Britain, France and Germany and is backed by the United States, Russia and China.

It offers Iran trade, technology and diplomatic incentives if the country agrees to suspend uranium enrichment work -- a process to make reactor fuel but which can be extended to make weapons.

"We want to restart a fresh relationship and we want to do it based on a spirit of trust and respect and confidence. The proposal we bring along will allow us to get engaged in negotiations based on trust, confidence and respect," Solana said at the start of his flying visit.

He was scheduled to hand the offer to Iran's top national security official Ali Larijani.

Western officials have said Iran will be expected to give its response within a matter of weeks.

If Tehran refuses to suspend its uranium enrichment work -- at the centre of fears the country could acquire weapons -- it faces the threat of tough UN Security Council action including possible sanctions.

Iran has refused to stop what it maintains is a peaceful nuclear programme, but has promised that it will at least consider the proposal, which also offers the prospect of the first substantive talks between Iran and the United States in 26 years.

"If their aim is not to politicise the issue and if they take our demands into consideration, we can reach a reasonable agreement," Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki commented.

"We will examine this proposal and give our reply after the end of the defined period," he added.

Washington said "there is hope" that Tehran will accept the package, drawn up by Britain, France and Germany and backed by the United States, Russia and China.

"I would counsel patience," White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters. "At this point, as we've said all along, let's give it time. Let's let the Iranians take a look at what the offers are, at the incentives and disincentives."

The United States charges that Iran is using its nuclear program to hide a quest for atomic weapons and has refused to rule out taking military action.

But diplomats say Washington has helped sweeten the package by offering to lift certain sanctions if Iran agrees to a freeze. Washington, whose ties with Tehran were severed more than two decades ago, has since the mid-1990s banned most US trade and investment in the Islamic republic.

"The condition for getting to the negotiating table is to suspend enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. That's the first step. Should that happen, then the whole series of other things can take place," Snow said.

"There's neither optimism nor pessimism; there is hope."

But a string of tough comments from Iranian officials have left many diplomats fearing that the offer could prove to be dead on arrival.

On Saturday, hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad revealed that he had been asked by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan "to examine the proposals and not act hastily".

But the president has consistently ruled out halting enrichment: "They say that they want to give us incentives. They think that they can take away our gold and give us some nuts and chocolate in exchange," he said last month.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also vowed Sunday that his country would not buckle in the face of "threats and bribes" and spoke of Iran's "scientific progress" as "representative of our political independence and national self-confidence."