World Powers Reach Agreement Over Iran Nuclear Program

Six world powers meeting to discuss the crisis over Iran's nuclear program agreed Thursday on a "significant" package of incentives to convince Tehran to halt uranium enrichment, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said.

"I am pleased to say we have agreed a set of far reaching proposals," she said. "We believe they offer Iran the chance to reach a negotiated agreement based on cooperation."

"If Iran agrees not to engage in negotiations, further steps will have to be taken," Beckett said after a meeting between the foreign ministers from France, Britain, Germany, the United States, Russia and China.

She said that U.N. Security Council action against Iran would be halted if Tehran agrees to stop uranium enrichment.

"We urge Iran to take the positive part but consider seriously our substantial proposals which would bring significant benefits to Iran," Beckett said, adding that they would now approach Tehran with the proposals.

A U.S. official traveling with the secretary of state said the agreement was balanced on both sides — incentives and penalties.

"We have agreement from our partners that if the Iranians don't take the pathway of negotiation then we will take measures with teeth in the security council," the official said on the condition of anonymity.

On Wednesday, the United States said it would join direct talks with Iran if it agrees to suspend uranium enrichment — a major reversal of a decades-long U.S. policy of avoiding formal high-level contact with Tehran.

But Iran remained defiant. "Iran welcomes dialogue under just conditions but (we) won't give up our (nuclear) rights," state-run television quoted Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying earlier Thursday in Tehran.

Earlier Thursday U.S. President George W. Bush warned that the standoff is headed for the U.N. Security Council if Tehran continues to refuse to halt uranium enrichment.

"We'll see whether or not that is the firm position of their government," Bush said after a meeting with his Cabinet at the White House. "If they continue their obstinance, if they continue to say to the world `We really don't care what your opinion is,' then the world is going to act in concert."

"The United States is going to take a leadership position in solving this issue," Bush said of the decision to engage Tehran if it meets the conditions on enrichment.