May 30, 2006

UN powers to meet to finalize Iran package

By Mark Heinrich

VIENNA (Reuters) - Major world powers will meet in Vienna
on Thursday to finalize a package of incentives for Iran to
halt nuclear fuel enrichment along with penalties if it keeps
defying international pressure, officials said on Tuesday.

The United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and
Germany failed to resolve differences at London talks last week
over the extent of sweeteners for Iran or the nature and timing
of sanctions if Tehran clung to enriching uranium.

The Chinese government said the sextet's foreign ministers
would convene on Thursday in Vienna, where the watchdog
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is based. British and
European Union officials also confirmed the meeting.

"We hope the meeting will achieve positive results,"
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana indicated on Sunday
some differences remained but that the six powers were "getting
very close" to consensus after further consultations.

Tehran says it seeks nuclear energy only for electricity.
Western powers suspect Iran's program is a civilian cover for
efforts to master technology to build atom bombs.

Contacts between the six powers' top diplomats sought to
bridge lingering differences over key aspects of the package,
including the legal basis of a Security Council resolution to
underpin it, an EU diplomat said.

Diplomats said last week the incentives prepared by
Britain, France and Germany for Iran would include a
light-water nuclear reactor and an assured foreign supply of
fuel for civilian power plants so Iran would not have to enrich
uranium at home.

But Washington has been wary about transferring reactor
technology that might be diverted into secret bomb production.

Sanctions could entail visa bans and a freeze on assets of
senior Iranian officials before resorting to trade measures.


But Russia and China, two of the five veto-holding Security
Council powers, have balked at a Western thrust to brand Iran a
"threat to international peace and security" in the proposed
Council resolution.

They argue this could lead to U.S.-led military action
against a state not proven to be seeking atomic bombs in

China on Tuesday stuck to its position that the dispute
should be resolved through diplomatic means.

"As a signatory to the (nuclear) Non-Proliferation Treaty,
Iran has the right to peacefully use nuclear energy," Liu said.

"But it should also fulfil its responsibilities and
promises to cooperate with the IAEA and regain the trust of the
international community," he said.

Iran hid uranium-enrichment research from U.N. nuclear
inspectors for almost 20 years, continues to deflect U.N.
probes and has failed in Western eyes to justify why it needs
nuclear power when it is the world's No. 4 oil producer.

But IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has said Iran poses no
imminent security threat and believes that sanctions or war
would only drive Iranian nuclear activity underground.

He has urged the West to seek a face-saving accord with
Iran that might allow it to keep limited enrichment under
strict IAEA monitoring and address security issues that have
stoked U.S.-Iranian hostility for 27 years.

Vienna diplomats said Iran signaled in recent contacts with
the IAEA that it could renounce "industrial scale" enrichment
and reinstate short-notice IAEA inspections if it could
maintain a "research and development" program.

Enriched to a low level, uranium can fuel nuclear power
plants, a technological threshold Iran reached with a pilot
cascade of 164 centrifuges in April. Highly-enriched uranium
(HEU) can cause the chain reaction that detonates atomic bombs.

But nuclear scientists say Iran has yet to prove it can run
finely calibrated centrifuges without breakdown for the
extended periods needed to enrich uranium in more than minute

They estimate Iran remains 3-10 years away from the
capacity to yield enough HEU for one nuclear weapon.