Iran rules out nuclear halt after powers offer deal

Top European Union diplomat Javier Solana handed Iran an offer by six major powers of trade and other incentives on Saturday to try to coax it into halting sensitive nuclear work, but Tehran again ruled out any such suspension.

“If the package [from the six powers] includes suspension it is not debatable at all,” Iran’s government spokesperson Gholamhossein Elham told reporters.

“Iran’s view is clear: any precondition is unacceptable.”

He was speaking shortly after Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, presented the incentives package from the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

The offer, including civilian nuclear cooperation, is a revised version of one rejected by Iran two years ago and diplomats have played down any hopes of a breakthrough in a dispute that has helped push up oil prices to record highs.

The world’s fourth-largest crude producer is refusing to stop activities it says are for generating electricity but which the West suspects are aimed at making bombs.

“Mr Solana handed [Mottaki] the letter of six [foreign] ministers and the EU and also the package,” Solana’s spokesperson Cristina Gallach told Reuters by telephone. “The conversation continues.”

Elham said Iran would review “any offer based on its international rights” and linked it with Tehran’s own package of proposals aimed at defusing the row, submitted to the EU and others last month.

Diplomats say Iran’s proposals ignored international concerns about its uranium enrichment programme, a possible pathway to atom bombs.

Asked when Tehran would respond to the world powers’ offer, Elham said: “We don’t know when ... we are waiting for their reply to our package.”

Sanctions warning
Seeking to step up the pressure, the United States and the 27-nation EU have threatened more sanctions if the Islamic Republic does not stop enriching uranium, which has both civilian and military uses.

Solana has said he hopes the incentives package will start a new process for resolving the dispute but that he expects no “miracles” during his brief visit to Tehran.

He said on Friday the offer, which he described as “generous”, would support Iran in developing a modern nuclear energy programme and also covered political and economic ties.

The United States, leading efforts to isolate Iran over its nuclear ambitions, says it wants a diplomatic solution but has not ruled out military action as a last resort.

On a farewell tour of Europe this week, US President George Bush said a nuclear-armed Iran would be “incredibly dangerous for world peace” and that “all options are on the table”, alluding to military action as a last resort.

The incentives package, hammered out by the six major powers in May, is an updated and enhanced version of an offer spurned by Iran in 2006 that also included wider trade in civil aircraft, energy, high technology and agriculture.

Iran’s refusal to stop enrichment, which can provide fuel for power plants or material for bombs if refined much more, has drawn three rounds of UN sanctions since 2006.

Solana was accompanied by senior officials from the major powers with the exception of the United States, which cut ties with Iran after its 1979 Islamic revolution.
- Reuters

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