New York Times: European countries are planning to offer new incentives to Iran if it agrees to halt its uranium enrichment program, European diplomats said Monday. The New York Times
By HELENE COOPER and WARREN HOGE
Published: February 26, 2008
WASHINGTON European countries are planning to offer new incentives to Iran if it agrees to halt its uranium enrichment program, European diplomats said Monday.
Meanwhile at the United Nations, Irans ambassador said that his country would continue to defy Security Council directives to halt the program, and that documents cited as possible evidence of Irans effort to develop nuclear weapons were forgeries.
The Security Council is expected to vote in the coming days on a third resolution to tighten sanctions against Iran.
The European plan is the latest part of the Wests long-running and so far unsuccessful carrot-and-stick strategy aimed at getting Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. The diplomats outlined the plan after a meeting at the State Department, where top officials from Britain, France, China, Russia, Germany and the United States discussed their Iran strategy.
While the United States is not opposed to the European plan to offer a few more incentives to Iran, Bush administration officials said that at this point the United States did not plan to join the proposal. A senior State Department official said the United States was hoping that the stick part of the Iran strategy the latest sanctions resolution would be approved by the Security Council in the next week or so.
The European and American officials spoke on condition of anonymity, under normal diplomatic rules.
Iran contends that it is entitled to enrich uranium under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and that its program is peaceful.
We think that from a logical point of view and legal point of view that there is no basis to even consider the Iranian nuclear program in the Security Council, said the Iranian ambassador, Mohammad Khazaee.
Speaking to reporters at the Iranian mission, Mr. Khazaee said Iranians would not be deterred by the resolution, which would be the third in 15 months to impose travel and money sanctions on individuals and financial institutions with involvement in the nuclear program.
Nobody can say that sanctions are not hurting anybody, but the point is we are not concerned with the measures in this resolution, he said. We have learned to live with them.
Mr. Khazaee brought up a new report released by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Friday, which said that suspicions about many Iranian activities had been laid to rest but that questions still remained about the programs ultimate purpose. He said that in his view the report had proved the allegations made against Irans peaceful nuclear program by a few countries have been totally flawed and baseless and that actions by the Council had been unfair, unwarranted and unlawful.
In particular, he singled out new documents supplied by the West and presented by the agency to Iran this month that included a schematic diagram showing what appeared to be the development of a warhead that could accommodate a nuclear device.
Mr. Khazaee said that they were forgeries made by a terrorist group and that officials in Tehran doubted the documents authenticity the moment they heard the names in them.
They said, for example, Joe and George and this one and that one had been involved, but we knew these people had nothing to do with the program and didnt understand anything about nuclear issues, he said. Obviously you know this is a fabrication.
Speaking in Seoul, South Korea, on Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice disputed the Iranian assessment of the I.A.E.A. report, The Associated Press reported, saying it provided very strong grounds for the Council to move ahead quickly with new sanctions.
The Council vote this time will probably not be unanimous because Libya, a new member that was once itself under sanctions, signaled its opposition on Monday. Envoys from three other Council members, Indonesia, South Africa and Vietnam, have also expressed reservations.
Resolutions need at least nine votes to pass, as long as there is no veto from one of the permanent members: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. All five back the measure.
The European incentives package discussed Monday in Washington was not likely to be completed until May at the earliest.
It could include proposals for joint ventures between European and Iranian oil companies, the diplomats said, and talks with Iran on regional security issues.
The world powers strategy on Iran has been in disarray since American intelligence agencies issued a National Intelligence Estimate in December concluding that the country had suspended its work on a nuclear weapons program in late 2003.
Because of those doubts, Russia and China, which have deep commercial ties to Iran, have dragged their feet over a new sanctions resolution and agreed only recently to a watered-down set of sanctions to be brought before the Council.
But many diplomats, and even some administration officials, say privately that they do not expect much to come from the next sanctions resolution, even if it is passed, because the resolution is so weak.
Helene Cooper reported from Washington, and Warren Hoge from the United Nations.