EU drafting new lures for Iran

ENTICEMENTS: A chief EU official said the offer would be a generous package that may include security guarantees, but Tehran was skeptical about what the West could offer


Tue, May 16, 2006 - Page 6

The EU is preparing a bold offer for Iran, including possible security guarantees, to persuade Tehran to curb its atomic ambitions, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said yesterday.

"It will be a generous package, a bold package, that will contain issues relating to nuclear, economic matters, and maybe, if necessary, security matters," Solana said, arriving for a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

"We are preparing a package [so] that it will be difficult for them to say no if what they really want is energy," he said, ahead of talks between the so-called EU-3 diplomatic powers; Britain, France and Germany.

Solana played down comments by Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, rejecting any new EU offer that might demand that the Islamic republic halt uranium enrichment activities.

The EU's top diplomat said the Iranians had yet to see the union's offer.

The West fears that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon behind the screen of a civilian atomic energy program. Tehran says it only wants to generate energy.

The US is seeking sanctions from the UN Security Council but it has failed to win support for the move and has given its European allies "a couple of weeks" to draft a fresh approach.

The EU, whose package must also satisfy Russia and China, has until this Friday -- when negotiators from the Security Council's five permanent members plus Germany meet in London -- to complete its work.

"Any offer which requires us to halt our peaceful nuclear activities will be invalid," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying on Sunday by the state news agency IRNA.

"I am surprised that a group of people hold meetings without us being present there and make decisions for us," he said.

As a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has the right to build a civilian nuclear program, but it must submit to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN watchdog.

It has refused to fully cooperate with the agency and Ahmadinejad has pledged to forge ahead as international pressure to give up enrichment has increased.

"This is one of the last chances to resolve this conflict from a diplomatic point of view," Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told reporters.

"We are ready to cooperate in the civilian nuclear domain and in trade and political areas," he said, before the meeting with his EU counterparts started.

"I think the Iranians are going to understand that the Europeans are courageous and are proposing something very important," he said.