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Europe Offers Nuke Proposal to Iran

European negotiators on Friday offered Iran (search) long-term support for its civilian nuclear program, including access to nuclear fuel, in exchange for a binding commitment not to develop atomic weapons, according to proposals obtained by The Associated Press.

Britain, France and Germany — which are spearheading diplomatic efforts on behalf of the European Union (search) — also want Tehran to "make a legally binding commitor the Light Water Reactors forming Iran's civil nuclear industry," said the summary of the proposals.

"Russia has committed itself formally to supplying nuclear fuel for the lifetime of Russian-built reactors in Iran" while the European Union nations would work with Iran to develop a framework to provide additional assurances that external supplies of fuel could be relied upon in the long term, according to the document.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi (search) acknowledged Tehran had received the proposal and said it would be studied "today and tomorrow" and a response would be issued "soon."

The proposals came on the eve of the swearing-in of Iran's new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has said his country will not pursue atomic weapons but will also not submit to international pressure to abandon its controversial nuclear program, comments similar to those during the past year by Iranian leaders.

Some Europeans worry that Ahmadinejad — who won presidential elections last month with the backing of hard-line elements of Iran's Islamic regime — could take a tougher.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, also said it will hold an emergency meeting Tuesday on Iran. The IAEA could report Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to impose economic and political sanctions.

The three European countries have been pressing Tehran to abandon its enrichment activities in exchange for economic aid, technical support and backing for Iran's efforts to join mainstream international organizations.

Uranium enriched to low levels can be used as fuel in nuclear reactors to generate electricity, but further enrichment makes it suitable for a nuclear bomb. The Europeans thus don't want Iran to have its own nuclear fuel cycle. Iran has long claimed that its nuclear program is solely for generating electricity and other civilian purposes and that it has a right under the NPT to a fuel cycle. Intense negotiations between both sides have so far failed to break the deadlock.