The Guardian: Iran said yesterday that it is to present the international community with a new package of proposals aimed at breaking the diplomatic deadlock over the country's nuclear programme.
- British officials say plan is a 'spoiler' to west's proposal
Breakthrough in deadlock thought to be unlikely
Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
Iran said yesterday that it is to present the international community with a new package of proposals aimed at breaking the diplomatic deadlock over the country's nuclear programme.
Rasoul Movahedian, Iran's ambassador in London, told the Guardian: "My government has worked out a new package, a new initiative, which is going to be put forward in the near future to deal with all aspects of our relationship [with the international community]."
He said he was not permitted to give details before the initiative is presented "before the end of next week" to the five permanent members of the UN security council – the US, Britain, France, Russia and China – as well as Germany, who together constitute the "5+1" group leading nuclear negotiations with Tehran.
However, Movahedian said the initiative would cover the nuclear programme, the security of energy supplies in the Middle East, counter-terrorism and joint efforts to control the drugs trade.
The ambassador said Iran's proposal would address western concerns that the rapidly developing nuclear project could be used to make weapons, hinting that his government would agree to extensive safeguards required by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
But he insisted that Iran would not surrender the right to enrich uranium, as the security council has demanded.
"My government is going to continue along the enrichment path. We do not accept any preconditions for negotiations," he said. That continued refusal suggests that the new initiative is unlikely to break the deadlock but may simply add to the war of words over Iran's programme.
British officials said yesterday they had not seen the Iranian proposal and expected it to be a "spoiler" aimed at diverting attention from an offer made last week by the "5+1" group involving a raft of incentives for Iran to give up uranium enrichment. The French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, described the group's offer as "very precise and very generous" but, as with the Iranian counter-proposal, no details were made public and the incentives are thought to differ little from a package first offered in 2006.
In this bleak diplomatic environment, Washington has given Britain a green light to explore the Iranian offer without any real hope of it leading to a breakthrough.
Movahedian claimed members of the "5+1" group had been approached informally with Tehran's offer, and there had been some "positive" response. Although the US has no diplomatic relations with Iran, the ambassador said back-channel contacts were constantly underway.
"It is nearly 30 years we have had back channels with the Americans and we still have them, despite all the rhetoric that has been exchanged openly between us. And we have found it quite interesting for those talks to continue," the envoy said, adding that he had conducted such contacts himself during the 1990s.
A Russian official confirmed Moscow had been approached with the new Iranian package but that it seemed unlikely to provide the basis of a lasting agreement. "They want to secure regional cooperation and other incentives, but carry on doing what they're doing with uranium. That's not going to fly," the official said.
The US has recently stepped up allegations that Iran has been arming insurgents in Iraq, and has increased its naval presence in the region with a second aircraft carrier.
Movahedian rejected the US claims. "It is Iraq's Arab neighbours who are providing arms and huge financial resources mainly to Sunni groups as well as al-Qaida elements and Baathist elements," he said. "We have no interest in chaos in Iraq. There is no logic for my government."
US commanders say recently manufactured Iranian weapons have been seized from insurgents. Administration officials say the evidence was presented to Tehran in the past few days by an Iraqi government delegation. Movahedian argued: "Arms with the name of a country on them does not prove anything. You can find arms from anywhere in Iraq. We have no policy to help insurgent groups against the legitimate government of Iraq."