Nations may deliver Iran new offer by this weekend

Envoys from 5 of 6 bargaining nations to make face-to-face appeal to Iran to scale back nuclear program; US to sit out trip.

Iran Nuclear 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Iran Nuclear 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Senior envoys from five of the six nations bargaining with Iran over its disputed nuclear program may try to get talks moving by making a special face-to-face appeal, US and European officials said Wednesday. Diplomats could deliver a new offer as soon as this weekend. They want Iran to scale back a nuclear program that the West fears could lead to a bomb. The officials said only the United States would sit out the diplomatic trip. It was not clear whether the envoys would travel to Tehran or deliver the offer elsewhere. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because plans are not set. The offer was expected to come from the top career diplomats from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. The United States would not stand in the way. World powers agreed Friday to try luring Iran to the bargaining table again using a repackaged offer to accompany the deterrent of UN sanctions. At the time, diplomats were silent about just how and when they would offer the new package. Diplomats have told The Associated Press that the Islamic republic sought direct contacts with at least some of the six world powers after years of inconclusive negotiations on the nuclear issue with their representative, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana. Diplomats said the offer contained no major new enticements but was meant to remind Iran that talking is an option. The central terms of a 2006 offer still stand: Iran could trade away worrisome elements of its nuclear program for economic assistance and the possibility of better relations with the US. Iran rejected the initial proposal, saying it came with insulting strings attached, including a moratorium on uranium enrichment. Iranian officials have turned down the revamped proposal without seeing it. But diplomats told the AP that would not change plans to formally present it to Tehran. The 2006 offer and the update were prepared by the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany, which had been part of a previous European bargaining gambit. One official said European nations were particularly keen to give the Iranians every opportunity to bend. Iran is under three sets of relatively mild UN Security Council sanctions for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment and meet other council demands meant to dispel suspicions that the Iranians are trying to develop nuclear weapons. Separately, diplomats in Vienna told the AP on Tuesday that the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency urged Washington to show more sensitivity in dealing with Iran if it hopes to see Tehran make concessions. The diplomats spoke following a meeting between IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei and Undersecretary of State John Rood. They said the American diplomat made no commitments, but promised to take ElBaradei's concerns back to his superiors.