Iran Nuclear NewsIran says incentives proposal needs study

Iran says incentives proposal needs study

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AP: World powers on Tuesday gave Iran a package of incentives that includes U.S. nuclear technology to persuade Tehran to curb its uranium enrichment program, and the Islamic republic’s initial reaction was relatively upbeat. Associated Press

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI

Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – World powers on Tuesday gave Iran a package of incentives that includes U.S. nuclear technology to persuade Tehran to curb its uranium enrichment program, and the Islamic republic’s initial reaction was relatively upbeat.

Speaking on state television after receiving the proposals, top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said the initiative contains “positive steps” but also some “ambiguities.”

Larijani, who met with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, called the talks “constructive” and said Iran would respond after studying the incentives.

Diplomats told The Associated Press that the package includes a provision for the United States to supply Tehran with some nuclear technology if it stops enriching uranium – a major concession by Washington.

The diplomats, who were familiar with the proposals, spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were disclosing confidential details of the offer.

The incentives package offers other economic and political rewards, but also contains the implicit threat of U.N. sanctions if Iran remains defiant.

In a breakthrough last week, the United States agreed to join in multinational talks on the package.

Details of the proposals have not been made public, but an early draft indicated that if Iran agrees to abandon uranium enrichment, the world would offer it help in building nuclear reactors, a guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel and European Airbus aircraft.

The European offer of light-water reactors meant for civilian nuclear energy purposes was revealed last month, but there had been no previous suggestion that the Americans would also agree to help build Iran’s civilian nuclear program if Tehran freezes enrichment and agrees to negotiations.

Asked about reports that the offer of Western technology includes U.S. technological assistance, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: “Well, I’ve seen a lot of reports flying around the past couple days about what may or may not be in this package. I would just caution everybody, until we actually are able to discuss what is in the package in public, take reports with a grain of salt.”

The United States also reportedly sweetened the offer by saying it would lift some bilateral sanctions on Iran, such as a ban on sales of Boeing passenger aircraft and related parts.

Iran’s commercial airline fleet is largely made up of aging Boeings purchased before the 1979 revolution. It frequently complains that the U.S. ban on parts has undermined safety and blamed the ban for several deadly crashes in the past. U.S. pressure has also prevented Iranian attempts to purchase new Airbus aircraft.

The package was drawn up Friday in Vienna by the United States along with the four other veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council – Britain, France, Russia and China – plus Germany.

Solana, who arrived in Tehran on Monday night, met Larijani for two hours at the Supreme National Security Council building in central Tehran. Journalists were barred from the building.

Iran’s initial reaction contained none of its usual insistence that it would never give up its right to enrichment.

“The proposals contain positive steps and also some ambiguities,” Larijani said.

He did not identify the “ambiguities,” but he said he had discussed them with Solana and that more talks would be required.

“We hope we will have negotiations and deliberations again after we have carefully studied the proposals,” he said.

“This is a framework of cooperation that requires taking careful steps from the outset,” Larijani said.

State-run television, in Persian, quoted Solana after the meeting as saying that the talks were “constructive” and that he looked forward to a “bright future.”

“The meeting has been very useful,” Solana said afterward in comments aired on state-run TV’s English-language channel.

“I have a feeling that it has been very, very constructive,” he said, adding that the two sides would have contacts in the coming days on the proposals.

Solana was to explain the details of the package but go no further. The EU envoy, who is heading a seven-person delegation, later met Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki before leaving Iran later Tuesday.

“It was agreed that the Islamic Republic of Iran will study the package. We will inform our friends of Iran’s views after a careful study,” Mottaki told state television after his talks with Solana. The EU envoy was expected to leave Iran later Tuesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, meeting in Germany with French President Jacques Chirac, urged Tehran to respond positively to the incentives, saying that they show the world’s interest in the success of “a modern Iran” and its sincerity in seeking a diplomatic solution.

“I hope that Iran shows a positive reaction and understands that there is a broad interest in a diplomatic solution to this conflict,” she said.

Chirac echoed Merkel’s hopes that the package would bring progress.

“We truly hope … that we can reach an accord that respects the demands of the IAEA toward Iran,” he said, referring to the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, which has demanded Iran once again suspend its enrichment of uranium, a process that can create fuel for a nuclear reactor or fissile material for a bomb.

Mottaki told Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso by phone that Tehran would “seriously study” the incentives, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said.

Mottaki also said Iran had the right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, the ministry said in a statement.

He added that the United States was to blame for the lack of trust between Washington and Tehran, and said he felt the international community shared Iran’s distrust of the U.S., according to the statement.

Iran says its nuclear development is for peaceful production of nuclear energy, but Washington, the European Union and others accuse Tehran of covertly trying to build a nuclear arsenal.

In recent days, Iran’s leadership has alternated between talking tough and signaling it is open to negotiations – perhaps an attempt to portray to the Iranian public that it is not backing down even as it considers reversing its refusal to suspend enrichment.

Additionally, the U.S. offer to join in direct talks with Iran might have taken Tehran’s top officials off-guard.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, normally a hard-line critic of the United States who insists that Tehran has a right to enrichment, said over the weekend that a breakthrough in negotiations was possible and welcomed the U.S. offer to join talks, while rejecting preconditions.

But threats by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to disrupt the world’s oil supply if Tehran is punished over its nuclear program reflected Tehran’s nervousness.

Although other Iranian officials have repeatedly ruled out using oil as weapon, his comments propelled oil prices to $73 a barrel Monday. Iran is the world’s fourth-largest oil exporter and the second-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Associated Press Writer George Jahn contributed to this report from Vienna, Austria.

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