Iran Nuclear NewsU.S. not expected to directly aid Iran reactor project

U.S. not expected to directly aid Iran reactor project

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Reuters: The United States is not expected to provide technology or equipment directly to Iran if the light-water nuclear reactor project offered in a proposal to Tehran goes forward, Western diplomats said on Tuesday. By Carol Giacomo and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is not expected to provide technology or equipment directly to Iran if the light-water nuclear reactor project offered in a proposal to Tehran goes forward, Western diplomats said on Tuesday.

The U.S. decision to support a reactor for Iran is a significant policy change and key to whether it could ever be built, but the diplomats said they expected Europeans and Russians to be the prime contractors. Washington would play a more passive role.

This would include providing clearances under U.S. law so the European and Russian work could proceed, the diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy surrounding the offer.

The package, formally presented to Iranian officials in Tehran by European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, includes incentives and penalties aimed at persuading Iran to give up enriching uranium. The West fears it will be used to build atomic bombs but Tehran insists it is purely for civilian use.

Central to the deal is the demand that Iran halt enrichment, a critical step in nuclear weapons production. But converting uranium, a preliminary step to enrichment, would be permitted, the diplomats said.

President George W. Bush said he was encouraged by Iran’s initial response to the incentives package, but time would tell if the Iranians were serious.

“It sounds like a positive step to me,” Bush told reporters in Texas after a visit to a border patrol facility.

Reacting to the proposals, Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said the package had some positive points but also some ambiguities that should be removed.

Details of the proposals have not been made public.

Bush repeated that he wanted to solve the nuclear standoff with Iran diplomatically.

“I appreciate Javier Solana carrying the message to the Iranians that America, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany … want this problem to be solved,” he said.

“So we’ll see if the Iranians take our offer seriously. The choice is theirs to make. I have said the United States will come and sit down at the table with them so long as they’re willing to suspend their enrichment in a verifiable way.”

Solana told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the Tehran talks were “very useful and constructive,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement.

Solana said Iranian officials told him they would need some time to review the package and he expected to have further contact with them in the next few days.

The United States offered last week to join European talks with Tehran, if Iran suspended uranium enrichment.

McCormack reiterated the U.S. view that Iran should respond to the package within weeks rather than months.

He said the specific proposals were being kept secret to give the Iranians time to respond without facing a public debate over the package.

(Additional reporting by Sue Pleming and Saul Hudson)

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