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EU: Compromise Offer To Test Tehran's Nuclear Intent

By Ahto Lobjakas

BRUSSELS, May 30, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The European Union warned today that Iran is facing the moment of truth on its nuclear program.

EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana told the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee in Brussels that Iran's response to an impending EU compromise offer will show if Iran is "really serious" when it says its only goal is to produce energy.

Test Of Nuclear Intent

The EU offer has not been made public yet. It is thought to include reactors, and light nuclear fuel for civilian nuclear power plants in exchange for an end to uranium enrichment in Iran itself. It is also likely to specify a set of sanctions that would follow if Iran rejects it. 

Solana said a rejection of the EU offer would show conclusively that Tehran is intent on acquiring nuclear weapons. "If they reject it, it probably will be once again a clear sign that what they are looking for is not only the production of energy, but [that] they are looking for a level of enrichment that goes way beyond what is necessary [for] the production of energy, entering into what we may call nuclear-weapon type of enrichment," he said.

Solana said the package will be discussed before the end of the week by the UN Security Council and the European Union. The EU will be represented by Great Britain and France, both permanent members of the council, and Germany. The three have long pursued talks with Iran.

Solana admitted today that Iran's initial response to the notion of the offer had not been "positive." Iran has consistently rejected any compromise that would prevent it from enriching uranium. The United States and the EU say Iran must not be allowed to enrich uranium under any circumstances.

Convincing China, Russia

Solana said that he is "optimistic" that the UN Security Council can unite on Iran and adopt what he called a "meaningful resolution" -- despite continued unwillingness on the part of permanent members China and Russia.

Solana noted that China recently signed a long-term energy-delivery contract with Iran, and that Russia also has "interests." But Solana said he believes both countries can be persuaded to fall in line with the EU and the United States.

"Talking to them at the highest level, when they put on the balance having Iran being a force of destabilization in the region, and having Iran to supply their energy they [face] a really big question," he said. "To have the Middle East [stable] and secure [means] also [having security] of supply, because if you don't have a stable set of countries round Iran, in Iran proper the supplies [would not be guaranteed]."

Iran's Regional Significance

Solana indicated that Iran's rising regional profile will be an important consideration. He said Iran has a key role to play in the stabilization of Iraq, wields "historical" influence in Afghanistan," and has influence over the Middle East peace process via the funds it "could be giving" to Hamas.

"The number of cards -- if you allow me to [put it that way] -- that Iran has now [on] the international arena [is] increasing and it is very important therefore that Iran acts with a sense of responsibility -- something that still has to be proven to be the case in the future," Solana added.

Solana welcomed signs that the United States is bringing to an end its policy of more than 20 years of having no direct contacts with Iran. Relations between the two sides were broken off when the U.S. Embassy was stormed by students and its diplomats taken hostage in the wake of the Islamic revolution in 1979.

Solana said a resumption of bilateral contacts would be "logical" and welcomed a recent decision by President George W. Bush to allow U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad to have direct contacts with Iranian officials. However, Iran has yet to accept them.


Copyright (c) 2006. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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