LONDON, (Reuters) – Major powers have agreed to make a new offer of incentives to Iran to halt its sensitive nuclear work, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on Friday, but declined to discuss the details.
“I am glad to say that we have got agreement on an offer that will be made to the government of Iran,” Miliband, flanked by senior officials from Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States, said in a televised statement. “We very much hope that they will recognise the seriousness and the sincerity with which we have approached this issue and that they will respond in a timely manner to the suggestions that we are making,” he added.
Miliband spoke after a meeting during which the permanent five U.N. Security Council members and Germany discussed how to update an offer of economic and political incentives that they made to Iran in 2006. Tehran has so far spurned the proposal.
Russia has been the main country to promote the idea of refreshing the June 2006 offer while the United States has made no secret of its scepticism, with U.S. officials saying they saw little reason to expect Iran to change course.
The United States and other Western nations suspect Iran of using its civil nuclear programme as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear programme is to generate electricity so that it can export more of its oil and gas.
The major powers have pursued a two-track approach towards Iran, offering economic and political benefits on the one hand and championing three U.N. Security Council resolutions that imposed sanctions against Iran on the other.
“We have always been clear that should be accompanied by an offer to Iran showing the benefits of engagement and cooperation with the international community and our meeting today has been dedicated towards taking the offer that we made in June 2006, reviewing it, and updating it,” Miliband said.
The incentives offered to Iran in 2006 included civil nuclear cooperation and wider trade in civil aircraft, energy, high technology and agriculture, if Tehran suspended uranium enrichment and negotiated with the six.
“We believe that the rights that it (Iran) seeks need to be accompanied by a clear set of responsibilities and it’s in the spirit of seeking to fulfil both the rights and responsibilities that we are making a new approach to Iran on the basis of today’s meeting,” the group’s statement added.
As she flew to London on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stressed Iran’s failure to respond to the incentives already on the table and she emphasised raising pressure on Iran by enforcing the U.N. sanctions.
The United States has imposed bilateral sanctions against Iran and has sought to use these tools to discourage companies and banks from doing business with the Islamic republic.
The Bush administration, reversing its policy, agreed to offer incentives to Iran in 2005, and to broaden the proposal in 2006, only with great reluctance.
Speaking before Miliband’s announcement, a Western diplomat said the so-called P5+1 group hoped to take the fresh offer to Iran and to encourage Iranian officials to rethink it. “What we hope to do with this … is to be able to go back to the Iranians and to remind them that this was a major move by the Americans and that maybe they haven’t evaluated it at its genuine price,” said the diplomat.