06/01/2006, 00.00
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US adopts 'stick and carrot' approach to stop Iranian nuclear programme

With Washington's offer of "direct talks" with Tehran on the table, the five permanent Security Council members and Germany meet tonight in Vienna.

Vienna (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Security Council members and Germany are due to meet tonight in Vienna to discuss a package of incentives, including sanctions, to present to Iran on its nuclear enrichment programme. What is different this time is Washington's offer of direct talks with Tehran if Iran first halted nuclear activities.

Dismissed as propaganda, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki rejected the US proposal as far as suspending uranium enrichment, but was ready to hold talks over issues of "mutual concern".

In doing so, he reiterated his country's contention that its nuclear programme is for "peaceful purposes" and non negotiable. "Rice's remarks," Mottaki said, referring to US Secretary of State, "were full of rhetoric and lacked solid foundations. [Her] offer of dialogue with Iran over its nuclear activities contained no new solution to the standoff". Still, he insisted that Iran was willing to talk to all sides under impartial and fair conditions.

The US offer of direct talks seems however to be an attempt to get Russia and China to back a plan that would include sanctions under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, but without the use of force.

Secretary Condoleezza Rice talked about the US proposal to Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing. Chinese government spokesman Liu Jianchao noted that "as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran enjoys the right to peaceful use of nuclear power but it should also fulfill its corresponding responsibility and commitment." But "it should also fulfill its responsibilities and promises to cooperate with the IAEA and regain the trust of the international community," Mr Liu said, referring to the International Atomic Energy Association.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was prudent in giving the thumbs up to the US proposal but was optimistic about today's Vienna meeting.

According to some news reports, the US proposal could include an offer to Iran of a light-water reactor and a pledge to suspend the current Security Council procedure against it. 

Should Iran refuse, economic sanctions would include a freeze on its overseas government accounts, an end to financial movements by Iranian officials abroad, an arms embargo as well as a ban on imports of refined fuels, which Iran lacks despite being one of the largest oil exporters in the world.

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