Iran Nuclear NewsOfficials: European Union set to make deal with Iran

Officials: European Union set to make deal with Iran

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USA Today: The European Union will offer Iran next week a guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel for civilian nuclear power plants and expanded economic cooperation if Iran agrees to stop trying to make its own fuel, two European officials said Wednesday. USA Today

By Barbara Slavin

The European Union will offer Iran next week a guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel for civilian nuclear power plants and expanded economic cooperation if Iran agrees to stop trying to make its own fuel, two European officials said Wednesday.

The offer will be timed to stop an Iranian threat to end a nine-month suspension of its nuclear energy program, the officials said. The Europeans, one in Washington and the other in Europe, have closely followed the negotiations but asked not to be named because the offer is still in draft form.

Iran has insisted it has the right to make its own nuclear fuel, which U.S. and European officials said can be used to make nuclear weapons. Outgoing President Mohammad Khatami told reporters in Tehran on Wednesday that Iran would soon resume converting raw uranium into uranium gas — the first stage in the production of nuclear fuel.

European negotiators will present their plan next week, when the new Iranian president, hard-line conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is sworn in, the officials said.

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said the Bush administration is aware of the EU proposal but would not confirm the details. Burns said the administration supports the Europeans but wants Iran to dismantle its system to make nuclear fuel, a demand the European Union has not yet made.

Burns said U.S. officials have consulted with the Europeans and support “their continued efforts to dissuade Iran from going forward with (its) nuclear efforts.” In a major shift in U.S. policy, the Bush administration agreed in March to sell Iran spare parts for civilian airliners and to stop blocking Iran’s application to join the World Trade Organization to give the nuclear negotiations a boost.

Along with its efforts to produce nuclear fuel, Iran has successfully tested solid-fuel missile engines, Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani told the Associated Press on Wednesday. Such technology makes missiles more precise.

Germany, France and Britain have been negotiating with Iran for months and consulting with the United States, Russia and China to build a united front in case Iran resumes making uranium gas. If Iran does so, it would violate the deal it signed with the three European countries last November and the issue would be referred to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, for possible referral to the U.N. Security Council.

European negotiators hope to persuade Iran that it will help its economy more by giving up its efforts to make nuclear fuel, the officials said. They said the EU offer has three major parts:

• Guaranteed fuel at market prices for a civilian nuclear power plant near completion at Bushehr and for future plants.

• Expanded economic cooperation, including the possibility that European companies might provide civilian nuclear technology, and aircraft for Iran’s decrepit national airline.

• A promise to include Iran in discussions about regional and global security, including policy concerning its neighbors Iraq and Afghanistan.

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