Bush edges toward Europe on Iran nuclear crisis
Updated: 2005-03-04 08:45
US President Bush on Thursday edged toward backing Europe's offer of
incentives to Iran to abandon nuclear weapons, but diplomats said Tehran was
building a research reactor that could eventually produce enough plutonium for
one bomb a year.
A shift toward the European position would represent an important change in
U.S. strategy toward Iran, an enemy Bush has been unwilling to reward for what
he sees as its bad behavior over the nuclear issue.
"We want to
help make sure the process goes forward and we're looking at ways to help move
the process forward. The guilty party is Iran," Bush told reporters.
President George W. Bush was leaning on March
3, 2005 toward backing Europe in offering incentives to Iran to persuade
it to give up nuclear ambitions, U.S. officials said, in a significant
shift in strategy toward an arch enemy. Bush is seen at an event in
Arnold, Maryland March 2. [Reuters]
With U.S.-European talks close to agreement, Bush discussed Iran with
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who met on Tuesday in London with foreign
ministers of the three European nations negotiating with Iran -- Britain, France
Diplomats said they learned from satellite photos that Iran had begun work on
a research reactor.
"Iran has laid the foundations for the research reactor at Arak," said a
Western diplomat close to the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.
In September, the IAEA board of governors called on Iran to reconsider its
decision to start building a reactor of a type that can be used to produce
Iran also wants to test parts for machines for nuclear work, diplomats said,
which showed that its freeze on activity which could produce atomic weapons
would only be short-lived.
The Western diplomats said Iran had made this request despite European Union
demands that it stop activities linked to uranium enrichment.
U.S. officials said under the new joint strategy toward Iran, the United
States would not block Tehran from joining the World Trade Organization, and
would not prevent European allies from selling Iran civilian aircraft parts.
In turn, the United States would insist that Iran abandon uranium enrichment,
something it has refused to do.
Bush may also slightly ease U.S. sanctions law to permit American
non-governmental groups to operate in Iran, said congressional and diplomatic
Some U.S. officials believe offering incentives will strengthen the
international community's hand by providing a united front for punitive
measures, such as U.N. sanctions, if the incentives do not work.
Rice said the negotiations would show whether Iran was ready to end
suspicions that it is pursuing a nuclear bomb.
"We believe that the EU negotiations are leading in the right direction
because what they are doing is they are confronting Iran with a choice about
whether it is prepared to give the international community the kind of
confidence it needs about Iranian activities," she said.
Bush said Washington was working with its European allies to ensure that "the
negotiating strategy achieves the objective of pointing out where guilt needs to
be as well as achieving the objective of no nuclear weapon."
An announcement of the president's strategy could come this week, U.S.