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Kerry would offer special Iran deal, says Edwards
Updated: 2004-08-31 09:17

If elected U.S. president, Sen. John Kerry would offer Iran a deal allowing it to keep its nuclear power plants if it gave up the right to retain bomb-making nuclear fuel, Kerry's vice presidential running mate said in an interview published on Monday.

Sen. John Edwards told The Washington Post that if Iran did not accept this "great bargain," this would confirm the Islamic state was building nuclear weapons under cover of a nuclear power initiative.

If Iran rejected this proposal, Kerry would ensure European allies were prepared to join the United States in imposing strict sanctions against Iran, Edwards said.

"If we are engaging with Iranians in an effort to reach this great bargain and if in fact this is a bluff that they are trying to develop nuclear weapons capability, then we know that our European friends will stand with us," said the North Carolina Democrat.

Such an offer to Iran would signal a shift in U.S. diplomatic relations with Iran, which were severed after the 1979 revolution. President Bush included Iran in his "axis of evil" along with North Korea and Iraq.

A senior Bush administration official said the United States and European powers Britain, France and Germany are in agreement "that there can be no resumed dialogue with Iran unless it returns to full suspension" of its nuclear program.

"Iran has no legitimate requirement for nuclear reactors, uranium enrichment or plutonium production capability. Its huge oil and gas reserves belie a need for even one reactor, let alone several," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Bush has called the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran intolerable, and the official said, "We believe (the issue) should be considered by the (U.N.) Security Council," which could impose sanctions.

Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said earlier this month that Iran's noncompliance should be referred to the Security Council in September, but diplomatic sources in Washington said this may slip to late November, following the U.S. presidential election.

Asked about Kerry's plans for Iran, Republican Sen. John McCain said this might be a decent idea if the United States were dealing with a "more trustworthy adversary."

"I think if you made any agreement with them there would have to be the most strict inspection regimen which they're not allowing at this time. I'd be a little skeptical about how trustworthy they would be," McCain told CBS.

Edwards accused the Bush administration of abdicating its responsibility for the Iranian nuclear threat to the Europeans, who have retained ties with Tehran.

"A nuclear Iran is unacceptable for so many reasons, including the possibility that it creates a gateway and the need for other countries in the region to develop nuclear capabilities -- Saudi Arabia, Egypt, potentially others," Edwards said.

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