Reuters: The United States said on Wednesday six world powers had no plans to offer Iran security guarantees to encourage it to suspend nuclear activity, hours after Russia floated the idea.
By Tabassum Zakaria and Matt Spetalnick
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The United States said on Wednesday six world powers had no plans to offer Iran security guarantees to encourage it to suspend nuclear activity, hours after Russia floated the idea.
The six — the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany — last week updated and enhanced a 2006 packet of incentives to be offered Iran to shelve uranium enrichment, which the West fears Tehran might use to build atom bombs.
Iran repeated that it would not stop enrichment, which it says is for generating more electricity only. Analysts said Tehran was unlikely to be moved by the new offer because it kept a precondition that Iran shelve the program first.
Russia, which along with China has prodded Western powers to agree more in the way of "carrots" for Iran and rely less on "sticks", or sanctions, said on Wednesday they should give Tehran security guarantees to relieve Middle East tensions.
"Security guarantees are not something we are looking at the moment," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in Israel as President George W. Bush launched a Middle East visit.
"As we've been saying, details (of the incentive package) are still being worked out and will be presented to the Iranian government soon. The one who needs to give security guarantees is Iran, because they keep threatening to wipe Israel off the map," Johndroe told reporters when asked about Moscow's idea.
The six pressing Iran to halt nuclear activity are the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov did not specify what security guarantees might be offered. But he said a combination of negotiations and incentives could defuse the stalemate over Iranian enrichment and wider conflict in the Middle East.
"I think the 'Six' could make the following step: directly put concrete offers on the negotiating table, give Iran security guarantees and ensure a more distinguished place in negotiations on the situation in the Middle East," he said.
"I am convinced that this is an effective way of relieving tensions in the region and regulating the situation surrounding Iran's nuclear problem," he told reporters in the Russian Urals city of Yekaterinburg where he met his German counterpart.
An Iranian counter-proposal on world security presented to the European Union sidestepped concerns over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, taking a catch-all approach to international problems that made clear Iran was not prepared to yield on enrichment.
The proposal text, obtained by Reuters, dwelled on cooperation to combat "common security threats" such as terrorism, "militarism" and drugs and called for uranium enrichment consortiums in various countries, including Iran, to foster nuclear energy for development.
Iran has suggested such a consortium on its soil before, ostensibly to defuse fears it might covertly divert enrichment technology to bombmaking. But Western powers rule this out, mistrusting Iran over its record of nuclear secrecy.
In a letter to the U.N. secretary general attached to the proposal, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called it a "strategic" and "comprehensive" formula for long-term world solutions and urged big powers to "deal with it constructively".
Western diplomats said Iran's initiative mostly rehashed known positions, lacking substantial new ideas for ways out of the nuclear impasse, and seemed like little more than a distraction that would not be constructive.
"It covers familiar ground … There's no shift on substance," one senior Western diplomat told Reuters.
The West suspects Tehran of seeking to derive nuclear weapons capability from its campaign to refine nuclear fuel, defying Security Council resolutions calling for the suspension of enrichment-related activities.
Three rounds of relatively mild U.N. sanctions have been imposed on the Islamic Republic, the world's No. 4 oil producer.
Incentives Iran refused in 2006 included civil nuclear cooperation and wider trade in civil aircraft, energy, high technology and agriculture.
Russia had pushed hardest to refresh the earlier offer while the United States made no secret of its skepticism, saying it saw little reason to expect Iran to change course.
(Additional reporting by Conor Sweeney in Yekaterinburg, Mark Heinrich in Vienna and Mark John in Brussels; Writing by Mark Heinrich; Editing by Stephen Weeks)