VIENNA, Austria – Iran's new offer for international talks falls far short of meeting demands by world powers, focusing on generalities without touching on U.N. Security Council calls that Tehran give up uranium enrichment, according to a copy of the offer obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.
The Islamic Republic also sent a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon complaining that Security Council sanctions imposed mainly because of Tehran's refusal to suspend enrichment were "illegal."
In the letter, which was also obtained by the AP, Iran obliquely slams the United States and its allies for their pursuit of the sanctions.
Both the letter and the document, entitled "The Islamic Republic of Iran's Proposed Package for Constructive Negotiations," were sent Tuesday to Ban. On Wednesday a copy of the offer was also given to Javier Solana, the chief EU foreign policy official who has held a series of abortive talks with Iranian representatives.
Iran's EU ambassador Ali Ashgar Khaji said in presenting the proposal to Solana that it was designed to resolve international concerns over his country's nuclear program and wider security issues. Solana's office welcomed the overture, and said he would pass them on to Germany, France and Britain, which are trying to engage Iran on its nuclear program along with the United States, Russia and China.
Still, the proposal was unlikely to be taken up by the six powers as a new basis for negotiations. Beyond outlining terms that were sure to be rejected as being too broad and vague, it avoided any direct mention of the issue the six world powers have been pursuing — an enrichment freeze as a condition for beginning any talks on Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
The six nations first offered a package of economic, technological and political incentives to Tehran nearly two years ago on condition that it suspends enrichment, which can be used both to generate nuclear fuel or to make the fissile core of nuclear warheads.
Iran, which insists its enrichment aims are peaceful, has consistently rejected a freeze in the on-off talks with Solana, who negotiates for the six. Earlier this month, those world powers agreed on repackaging the incentives in what that diplomats described as mainly cosmetic changes to the original 2006 offer, while maintaining the threat of further U.N. sanctions.
Iran "believes that there is an extensive range of issues such a security issues, regional and international developments, nuclear energy, terrorism, democracy, etc., that provide a substantive potential for cooperation," according to Iran's 2 1/2-page proposal.
"Drug control, environmental conservation and economic, technological, commercial — especially energy — cooperation ... provide other excellent possibilities and avenues for constructive cooperation," it says. "The main outcome of this new round of negotiations would be an agreement on 'collective commitments' to cooperate on economic, political, regional, international nuclear and energy security issues."
The offer proposes a discussion of political, security, economic and nuclear issues in "the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa and Latin America." It also links the creation of a Palestinian state to such talks.
It says Iran would be willing to serve as one of the venues for "enrichment and fuel production consortiums" — a previous offer rejected by the international community as not abolishing concerns about its enrichment plans. Beyond that, the document talks only in generalities about the "nuclear issue."
In the accompanying letter to the U.N. secretary general, Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki indirectly accuses the U.S. and its allies of having "used the U.N. organs as a tool" — an allusion to their push for Security Council sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear defiance. He criticizes "the unlawfulness of the intervention of the U.N. Security Council in Iran's peaceful nuclear program."
Mottaki said Iran is ready to talk to the six "within a specific framework on issues of mutual interest." But he appeared to reject the present carrot-and-stick approach, saying "intimidation and negotiation not only will not help resolving issues, but will indeed further complicate the situation."
While none of the big powers have specifically commented on the new Iranian offer, the United States on Wednesday appeared to rule out one of its key components saying the world powers had no plans to offer Iran security guarantees to nudge it toward suspending enrichment.