Iran Nuclear NewsIran sanctions would be frozen by U.S. for talks,...

Iran sanctions would be frozen by U.S. for talks, envoys say

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ImageBloomberg: The Obama administration won’t impose additional sanctions on Iran if it freezes nuclear development work and joins talks over the future of its program, European diplomats said.

By Bill Varner

ImageApril 16 (Bloomberg) — The Obama administration won’t impose additional sanctions on Iran if it freezes nuclear development work and joins talks over the future of its program, European diplomats said.

Undersecretary of State William Burns informed Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia of the new U.S. approach to the so-called “freeze-for-freeze” proposal at a meeting in London on April 8, according to the diplomats, who spoke on condition they weren’t identified.

Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. said it was prepared to accept a freeze on United Nations and European Union sanctions. President Barack Obama would extend that offer to include U.S. sanctions, which under Bush often targeted Iranian banks.

Obama has echoed Bush’s demand that Iran not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon.

The European diplomats said that in return for the new U.S. concession Iran would have to refrain from further development steps, such as adding centrifuges to enrich uranium. The deal would be for a limited time leading up to the beginning of formal negotiations.

The U.S., which along with several major allies has accused Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, helped to promote three sets of UN Security Council sanctions on the government in Tehran for its refusal to halt enrichment.

Iran has rebuffed the measures, saying its effort is intended only to power nuclear reactors for generating electricity.

Incentives Package

The State Department reiterated this week that a suspension of Iranian uranium enrichment is still its objective. The U.S. and its European partners offered Iran a package of incentives last year, chiefly to loosen trade restrictions, in exchange for the enrichment pause.

“We are open to a direct dialogue with Iran,” State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters in Washington. “Suspension is something that the international community wants to see. It is clearly our goal.”

The U.S. National Security Council and mission to the UN had no comment on the development in London. State Department officials weren’t available for comment.

Asked whether the U.S. has dropped the condition of ending uranium enrichment, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday, “We have not dropped or added any conditions.”

‘Collective Action’

Clinton said the U.S. would work with allies “to make it clear that Iran cannot continue to pursue nuclear weapons. We will stand behind the sanctions that have already been implemented, and we will look for new ways to extend collective action vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear program.”

The U.S. and its European partners, along with Russia and China, instructed EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to request a new round of talks with Iran. Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, said on April 13 that his country “welcomes” the discussions, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran will soon present new proposals to end the dispute over its nuclear ambitions.

Ahmadinejad’s Message

“We have designed a new package for negotiations which will soon be ready and delivered,” Ahmadinejad was cited as saying yesterday by state television. This offer “guarantees peace and justice in the world and respects all nations’ rights,” he said in a speech in southeastern Kerman province.

American pressure on Iran has come mainly in trying to deny financing for its military efforts and future energy projects. The U.S. Treasury Department last year froze the assets of 11 companies with ties to Bank Melli, an Iranian bank it has accused of proliferation and helping Iran’s government purchase materials needed in its nuclear and missile programs.

A freeze also has been imposed on an Iranian shipping company, 18 of its affiliates and six military companies.

The UN Security Council resolutions imposed a range of sanctions on Iran. They include a prohibition on trade of any items that might contribute to its nuclear program, inspection of cargoes to and from Iran, and a ban on the travel outside Iran of five senior nuclear officials.

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