EU aid offered to Iran

Deal linked to halt in uranium enrichment

May 16, 2006|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BRUSSELS, Belgium --The European Union said yesterday that it would offer a new incentive package to Iran, including technology to build nuclear power plants for civilian energy production.

But Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said that Iran would first have to gain international confidence by ceasing any nuclear enrichment, which Iran defends as part of its nuclear program but which the United States and the European Union view as camouflage for a nuclear weapons program.

Speaking after a meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels, Solana said the European Union was willing to offer Iran "the most sophisticated technology" provided it would be used for generating energy and not building nuclear weapons.

"We want to prove to the Iranians clearly and loudly that we have nothing against Iran using nuclear power for peaceful means," Solana said. "But we do not have proof that this is the case, and Iranian demands to be able to conduct enrichment for research purposes is something we can't accept."

He did not explain how technology could be offered that would allow Iran to produce nuclear power without also enabling it to create weapons-grade nuclear materials. Nor did he explain how such technology could be provided without approval from the United States, which insists that Iran halt all nuclear activities.

Iran reacted coolly to the proposals, saying that it would reject any European initiative that demanded that Iran halt uranium enrichment. Meeting with the ambassadors of Britain, France and Germany in Tehran, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that "any demand for a suspension or pause" of uranium enrichment "is an illogical and unacceptable demand and undoubtedly will be rejected."

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad preemptively dismissed any new European offer on Sunday, asserting that only Iran has the authority to make decisions about its nuclear program.

European officials said privately that they were seeking to structure the offer in such a way that Iran would be forced to reveal the true intentions behind its nuclear program. "We want to tease out an offer that will once and for all force Iran to say whether it wants to use nuclear activities for energy or for nuclear weapons and to stop it from playing games," said one official, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of derailing negotiations.

European officials said they had discussed an incentives package for Iran that included proposals to speed talks on its potential admittance to the World Trade Organization and on expanding university ties between Iran and Europe. However, they emphasized that Europe would not offer Iran security guarantees against potential threats by its neighbors.

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