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EU Official in Tehran to Present Nuclear Incentive Package


European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana has arrived in Tehran, with the latest set of western incentives for Iran to abandon its nuclear program. Brussels hopes to keep pressuring the Iranians, through dialogue.

It is unclear just what carrots Javier Solana will propose to persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear fuel program. Experts say it may include offering Iran nuclear reactors along with special commercial incentives.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad previously appeared to have already dismissed the offer, out of hand. Iran also threatens to disrupt its oil exports, as a weapon in the standoff.

But there are also some encouraging developments. The Bush administration says it may be willing to enter into talks with Tehran. And, on Saturday, Mr. Ahmadinejad welcomed talks with Washington and with the five other nations involved in the dispute. He suggested a breakthrough might be possible.

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful, energy purposes and argues it has the right to develop it. But the West fears Tehran aims to develop a nuclear weapon.

Daniel Keohane, a senior research fellow at the Center for European Reform in London, says Mr. Solana's trip is as much about dialogue than about the incentive package itself.

"The first point is to keep the pressure on the Iranians," said Keohane. "The U.S. has basically made it clear it wants dialogue. Up until then, the Iranians had been complaining that the Americans weren't interested in dialogue. So Solana is trying to keep the pressure on the Iranians to try and be constructive."

Keohane says the U.S. offer for talks has strengthened the Europeans hand as it pushes for negotiations to end the dispute. The offer also pressures two other parties in the talks, Russia and China, to be more flexible in dealing with Iran. Both countries have been reluctant about imposing United Nations sanctions, if Tehran does not give up its nuclear program.

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