The Bush administration, in a policy shift, says it will offer economic incentives to Iran to back the European effort to get Tehran to abandon any effort to build nuclear weapons. The Europeans say they will support referral of the matter to the U.N. Security Council if their diplomacy fails.
In a move reflecting closer cooperation with key U.S. allies, the administration says it will offer the incentives to assist a long-running effort by Britain, France and Germany to convince Iran to drop any nuclear weapons ambitions.
Under a deal worked out in part during President Bush's trip to Europe last month, the United States will drop its opposition to Iran's bid to join the World Trade Organization, and allow the sale of critically needed spare parts for Iran's aging fleet of civilian airliners.
The three European parties, for their part, said in a statement Friday that if their quest for adequate guarantees about Iran's nuclear intentions fails, they would have "no choice" but to support a referral of the matter to the U.N. Security Council.
The United States has long supported such a referral, which could lead to economic sanctions against the Tehran government.
In a written announcement of the new policy, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Bush administration shares the European desire to secure Iran's adherence to its international nuclear obligations "through peaceful and diplomatic means."
She said Friday's announcement demonstrates U.S. readiness to take practical steps to support European efforts to this end.
In a talk with reporters here after meeting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk, the secretary said the U.S. move is aimed at keeping the spotlight where it belongs, on Iran and its obligation to live up to its commitments. "There is very often too much talk about what the United States needs to do, or what the European Union needs to do," she said. "We can now return the focus to what the Iranians need to do, and the Iranians need to take the opportunity that the Europeans are presenting them with, to demonstrate that they're prepared to live up to their international obligations."
The secretary said that Iran is obliged to demonstrate that it is not, under the cover of its civilian nuclear power program, trying to develop a nuclear weapon.
Though Iran insists its intentions are entirely peaceful, Ms. Rice said there are "grave concerns" about Iranian intentions, reinforced by what she said are "suspicious activities" being tracked by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher appeared to rule out additional U.S. incentives to Iran, saying the administration is not negotiating with Tehran.
He said the Europeans felt that the U.S. offer on the World Trade Organization and the aircraft parts has added to the credibility of their dealings with Iran. "What this does is that it brings a common view, a unified message, a unified position of the United States and Europe. Iran now, presented with that unified view, should take the opportunity and should try to reassure the international community and not try to start negotiating other things," he said.
Mr. Boucher said the United States is not trying to prevent Iran from having nuclear power for peaceful purposes, and for instance is no longer pressing Russia to stop work on Iran's Bushehr power reactor on the Persian Gulf, now that Moscow will require the return of all spent reactor fuel.
The U.S. statement, in the name of Secretary Rice, said the United States shares European concerns about Iran's record on human rights and democracy. It also said at this "moment of opportunity" in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, Iran must cease its support for groups using violence to oppose peace.