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EU to Offer Iran Incentives to Drop Nuclear Plan

The European Union will propose a "bold package" of incentives to Iran, including possible security guarantees, if Tehran can ensure that its nuclear program is not used to produce weapons, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Monday.

"We have said over and over again that we think a diplomatic solution is a good way, and we are going to continue on that line and ... we are going to prepare a very serious package that will make it difficult for them to say no," Solana said ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

But in Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday any economic and political incentive package would be rejected if it required Tehran to stop enriching uranium, which many experts see as a first step toward producing nuclear weapons.

CountryWatch: Iran

Asserting that only Iran has the authority to make decisions about its nuclear program, Ahmadinejad said, "They want to offer us things they call incentives in return for renouncing our rights."

But Solana did not appear unduly worried by Ahmedinejad's stand.

"It will be a generous package, a bold package, that will contain issues related to nuclear, and atomic matters and maybe necessary security matters," he told reporters.

"We ... have nothing against Iran having nuclear capabilities, if it's strictly devoted to the production of energy, (and) we have said that we would even be ready to cooperate with that," Solana said. "What we think is not appropriate, not acceptable, is to take the other route which is not to produce energy, but to produce arms or weapons."

Other ministers echoed that sentiment.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that he counts on the fact that "there remains common sense in the government in Tehran" to accept the offer, adding that he hoped the package could be finalized this week -- ahead of a meeting of nonproliferation officials from the five permanent Security Council nations and Germany next Friday in London.

"If they are prepared to (comply with International Atomic Energy Agency recommendations) there could be real advantages in tackling the problems that Iran itself says that it is seeking to address," British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said.

Tehran repeatedly has asserted that its nuclear program, which includes uranium enrichment, is purely civilian in character and aimed only at generating power. But the United States, Israel and the EU fear the research program is in fact a cover for the development of nuclear weapons.

Iran rejected a package of economic and political incentives offered by the EU last August in return for a permanent end to uranium enrichment, but EU governments have continued to offer sweeteners, as well as pushing at the United Nations for measures that could lead to sanctions if it refuses.

They are now considering adding guarantees that would ensure that Tehran will be able to carry out its civilian nuclear program. The EU hopes that the renewed offer could help persuade Iran to comply with their demands, even as Russia and China resist European and American efforts to draft a Security Council resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter -- which would make it enforceable by sanctions or, if necessary, military action.

A document posted on the EU's Web site said the ministers were likely to express the bloc's "preparedness to support Iran's development of a safe, sustainable and proliferation-proof civilian nuclear program, if international concerns were fully addressed."