Saturday, May 20, 2006

Split emerges in West's front against Iran

The European Union and Washington are split over an EU proposal to offer Iran a generous package of incentives including nuclear reactors and security pledges if it stops enriching uranium, diplomats said on Saturday. The EU draft offer of a package of incentives in exchange for a suspension of enrichment has caused a split in the West's previously united position on Iran since Washington has serious reservations about the European plan, EU diplomats said.

The plan will be discussed in London on Wednesday by senior officials from the "EU3", the United States, Russia and China, an EU diplomat familiar with the EU3's preliminary draft proposal told Reuters. "We agreed to offer Iran a nuclear power plant and possibly more along with support for an international (nuclear) fuel consortium to guarantee fuel for civilian nuclear activity," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Russia and China are expected to support the plan but Washington is concerned about the idea of supporting a regional security framework in the Middle East and exempting EU firms from U.S. penalties if they do business with Iran. "We're still looking at it and we've not yet decided our position," Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told Reuters, adding he would deliver the U.S. response at the London meeting.

A British Foreign Office spokesman said public discussion of the EU proposal's contents was "premature" and indicated that there was no guarantee Iran would be offered any reactors. "The possible supply of a light-water reactor for Iran is still under consideration," he said. EU diplomats said Washington was uncomfortable with the idea of offering Iran any reactors at this point and was loathe to ask Congress to exempt EU firms from U.S. penalties for doing business with Iran in the nuclear field.


No comments: