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Europeans to Offer Iran Last Chance to End Nuclear Weapons Effort - 2004-10-15

Key European allies told the United States Friday they will offer Iran a package of inducements next week in an effort to persuade Tehran to end its drive for nuclear weapons. U.S. officials say if the bid fails, the matter will go to the U.N. Security Council.

The United States will not offer Iran any incentives itself. But it will not stand in the way of having Britain, Germany and France approach Iran with an inducement package next week aimed at defusing the long-running crisis over what U.S. officials say is a covert Iranian drive for nuclear weapons.

The issue was discussed behind closed doors here at a meeting of senior officials of the G-8 leading industrialized countries. Diplomats from both the United States and Europe described the meeting as useful.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey said participants reaffirmed the statement by G-8 leaders at their Sea Island, Georgia summit in June that the Iranian nuclear issue needs to be resolved with Tehran in full compliance with Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations and nuclear safeguards agreements.

He said while the United States holds to its view that Iran can no longer be allowed to remain in defiance of International Atomic Energy Agency resolutions, and that the matter must be referred to the U.N. Security Council, it also gave its assent to the European mission to Iran as a last-chance opportunity to comply before the IAEA governing board meets in November:

"The United States listened carefully to the EU three's explanation of their approach, and the EU three agreed to inform us of the results of their effort," he said. "The United States noted that the IAEA board of governors had spoken unanimously to Iran in five successive resolutions of the board of governors, and had set the November meeting of the board as a deadline. Iran should take this opportunity to comply with those resolutions now."

U.S. diplomats said the European offer to Iran is basically a compilation of benefits, including a comprehensive trade deal with the European Union, that Iran has foregone because of its defiance of the international community on the nuclear issue.

It's understood also that the package includes an offer by Russia to provide Iran with nuclear fuel for the power plant it is building at Bushehr on the Persian Gulf, provided that Iran returns spent fuel to Russia and ends it own uranium-enrichment efforts.

The diplomats say if Iran rejects the deal, the G-8 countries have agreed that the IAEA board, when it meets in Vienna November 25th, should sent the Iranian case to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose economic sanctions against Iran.

Iran insists that its nuclear program is entirely for the peaceful generation of electricity, and it also says it has a legitimate right to develop an entire fuel cycle for its power plants, including the enrichment of domestically-mined uranium.

Iran has threatened to bar international nuclear inspectors from its territory if the matter goes to the Security Council.

U.S. officials contend the issue should go to the Security Council regardless of any new promises Iran might make, because of its past record of deception with regard to its nuclear activities.