06/02/2006, 00.00
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Incentives and sanctions in package for Iran

The details of the package of proposed incentives and penalties elaborated by the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany are not yet known. Russia excludes the use of force. Bush and Hu Jintao talk on the phone.

Vienna (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany have agreed to a package of incentives and penalties to try to induce Iran to curb its nuclear enrichment programme. The package also includes the possibility of sanctions but excludes the use of force and the imposition of deadlines.

As British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett described it, the "set of far-reaching proposals as a basis for discussion with Iran" was agreed to last night in Vienna but its details have not yet been released. The fact that it was achieved at all is seen as a success for US diplomacy.

"We are prepared to resume negotiations should Iran resume the suspension of all enrichment related and reprocessing activities as required by the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and we would also suspend action in the Security Council. We have also agreed that if Iran decides not to engage in negotiation further steps would have to be taken in the Security Council," said Ms Beckett, who was the only envoy of the six powers to make a statement at the end of the meeting.

"All six-party agreements on Iran unambiguously rule out the use of force against Teheran," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is quoted as saying in Russian news agency Itar-Tass.

China is reported to be opposed to across-the-board sanctions, but welcomes the US proposal for talks with Iran. The official Xinhua news agency reported that Chinese President Hu Jintao told George W. Bush by telephone that his country is prepared to do its part in the negotiations.

"China," Mr Hu said, "is ready to keep contact and coordination with the United States and play a constructive role in resuming the negotiations on the Iran nuclear issue at an early date".

Under the terms of the agreement, should Tehran reject the package, the issue would go back to the Security Council which, according to US sources, might impose sanctions, even if only economic.

For his part, Russian FM Lavrov said that there would be no ultimatums on a deadline by which Teheran would be expected to give an answer, but he expects one within the new few weeks.

For German FM Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Iran has to think hard because the package could be its last chance to avoid a futile confrontation with the United Nations and total isolation from the international community.

From Iran no official response has yet to come. IRNA, Iran's official news agency, did not report yesterday's meeting in Vienna. It did however publish statements by Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, reiterating his country's claim that it wants to use nuclear energy for civilian use and is actively working to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

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