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US Urges Iran to Accept EU Nuclear Proposal


The United States is urging Iran to accept the European Union proposal on its nuclear program, and to avoid violations of last November's Paris accord freezing its uranium enrichment activities. European envoys formally submitted the proposal to Iran Friday in Tehran.

The Bush administration is embracing the European plan even though it would allow Iran to retain a civilian nuclear power program, and it is urging Iran to consider it positively and avoid actions that would scuttle dialogue on the issue.

Ambassadors of the three EU countries conducting the nuclear diplomacy with Iran, Britain, France and Germany, formally submitted a proposal to Iranian officials in Tehran Friday aimed at ending concerns in Washington and elsewhere that Iran, despite its denials, is seeking nuclear weapons.

News accounts of the European proposal say it would acknowledge Iran has a right to a civilian nuclear program and offer assistance for it, provided that Tehran make a binding commitment not to pursue nuclear fuel-cycle activities other than for electric power plants and research.

The United States consulted closely with the Europeans in the preparation of the package and the U.S. endorsement of the proposal came in a brief statement by the State Department.

Acting State Department Spokesman Thomas Casey said the United States supports the European efforts including the proposal presented Friday, and urged Iran not to follow-through with recent threats to break the agreement it made with the Europeans last November in Paris to suspend uranium enrichment activity while diplomacy went forward.

"Over the past year, the EU-3 has put considerable time and effort into developing this package. We encourage Iran to consider positively the EU-3's offer, to continue to observe the Paris agreement, and to refrain from taking steps that would violate the agreement, such as breaking the IAEA seals at Isfahan, and restarting uranium conversion," he said.

The European proposal was submitted amid threats by Iran to break seals placed by IAEA inspectors and resume uranium conversion at its Isfahan facility next week.

The governing board of the IAEA, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency, is to hold an emergency meeting in Vienna Tuesday and is expected to also urge Iran not to resume nuclear activity and to consider the EU package.

The United States, which has long maintained that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons program, has said the IAEA should refer the issue to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions if the approach by the European Union fails.

A senior U.S, official who spoke to reporters at the State Department said the Bush administration's support for the EU plan allowing Iran a civilian nuclear program represented no change in U.S. policy.

He noted the United States has publicly supported a plan for the provision, by Russia, of fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power plant Iran is building on the Persian Gulf, provided that spent fuel from Bushehr is returned to Russia for reprocessing.

The official said that through this "closed fuel cycle," along with IAEA safeguards and other restrictions, there would be an ability to insure that none of the nuclear fuel involved would be diverted to an illicit weapons program.