Iran General NewsBush nearing decision on incentives for Iran

Bush nearing decision on incentives for Iran

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Reuters: President George W. Bush is close to deciding whether to join Europe in offering incentives to Iran, including membership of the World Trade Organization, in exchange for Tehran’s agreement to give up nuclear weapons, U.S. officials said on Monday. It would mark a significant shift in strategy for Bush, who has been reluctant to consider economic incentives for Iran to avoid being seen as rewarding bad behavior. He had been talking about taking Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.
Reuters

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush is close to deciding whether to join Europe in offering incentives to Iran, including membership of the World Trade Organization, in exchange for Tehran’s agreement to give up nuclear weapons, U.S. officials said on Monday.

It would mark a significant shift in strategy for Bush, who has been reluctant to consider economic incentives for Iran to avoid being seen as rewarding bad behavior. He had been talking about taking Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

After listening to European leaders last week, Bush agreed to give their ideas careful consideration, and met with top foreign policy advisers about it on Friday.

“The president is considering ideas that were discussed last week in Europe for moving forward on our efforts to get Iran to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons and abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

McClellan would not comment on when Bush might make a decision, but other officials said he was close to making one.

Iran denies it is developing nuclear arms and says its program is solely for generating electricity.

Inducements proposed by European officials included letting Iran eventually join the WTO, which would make Tehran part of the world trading system and give it greater international legitimacy.

It could also include providing Tehran an Airbus and hold out the prospect of more aircraft deliveries if the talks were successfully concluded.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters on a flight to London, where she was to attend a Middle East conference, that WTO entry could promote democratic development in a country like Iran.

“WTO membership can very often have exactly that effect. It obviously depends on the conditions in the country that is applying for WTO membership,” she said.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, president of the U.S.-based Strategic Policy Consulting and a critic of the Tehran government who helped expose details of Iran’s nuclear program, said offering inducements was a bad idea.

“Iran wants to buy time, while the international community is dragging its feet, in order to get the capability to make the bomb,” he said. “The same way that increased pressure on Syria is beginning to pay off, it is time for the U.S. to step up pressure and tighten political screws rather than offering carrots.”

DIPLOMATIC SOLUTION

France, Germany and Britain, acting on behalf of the European Union, have been trying to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear program in return for trade and other benefits.

Bush has not ruled out military action but said last week he hoped to find a diplomatic solution to the dispute.

The White House reacted cautiously to an agreement signed by Russia and Iran over the weekend under which Moscow would supply nuclear fuel to allow Iran’s first atomic reactor to start up next year.

“In terms of the agreement between Russia and Iran, we’re not aware of all the details at this point,” said McClellan. “We’ve expressed our long-standing concerns about Iran seeking to develop a nuclear weapon under the cover of a civilian nuclear power program.”

A key part of the agreement obliges Tehran to repatriate all spent nuclear fuel to Russia. Moscow hopes that will allay U.S. worries that Iran may use the spent fuel, which could be reprocessed into bomb-grade plutonium. (Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed, Carol Giacomo and Tabassum Zakaria)

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