By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 14, 2006; A18
UNITED NATIONS, July 13 -- The Bush administration agreed last month to consider lifting long-standing sanctions on the sale of commercial jets, agricultural equipment and telecommunications technology to Iran if it agreed to halt its enrichment of uranium and submit to more intrusive U.N. inspections of its nuclear program, according to a copy of the agreement made public Thursday.
The offer, which would require congressional approval, was contained in an incentive package presented to Iran in June by the United States, Russia, China France, Britain and Germany to persuade it to halt its nuclear activities. Foreign ministers from those six countries, who were meeting Wednesday in Paris, expressed frustration at Iran's refusal to quickly agree to the incentives and vowed to confront Tehran in the Security Council.
The three-page confidential document was presented Thursday to the 15-nation council in advance of negotiations on a resolution that would demand Iran halt the enrichment of uranium and reprocessing of nuclear fuel.
"The Iranians have given no indication at all that they are ready to engage seriously on the substance of our proposals," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in a statement read at the end of the Wednesday meeting of the global powers. "We have no choice but to return to the United Nations Security Council and take forward the process that was suspended two months ago."
Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Thursday that Tehran is prepared to keep negotiating over its nuclear program but that the government needs more time to study the proposal, according to the Associated Press. But he said: "The people of Iran will not give up their right to exploit peaceful nuclear technology," according to state television monitored by the AP. "They are not intimidated by the arrogant uproar and propaganda today."
Iran maintains that its nuclear program is being built to produce enough power to meet the country's growing energy needs. But the Bush administration charges that Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons, citing U.N. complaints that it has misled the agency about its nuclear activities for 18 years.
The package presented to the council Thursday provides no explicit assurances Tehran has sought to bar U.S. military strikes on its territory. Instead, it pledges the major powers' support for a vaguely defined international conference to "promote dialogue and cooperation" on regional security.
President Bush, who once described Iran as a member of the axis of evil, has resisted European appeals to provide Iran with such security assurances, insisting that the military option not be taken off the table.
For its part, the council's five major powers and Germany would halt consideration of Iran's nuclear program in the Security Council, work to improve the Islamic government's "access to the international economy markets and capital," support its entry into the World Trade Organization, and help to foster more trade and investment with Iran.
The United States and its partners would also help Iran build an unspecified number of light water nuclear reactors and provide Iran legally binding assurances of a reliable supply of nuclear fuel. The plan calls for the creation of a five-year reserve of nuclear fuel stored outside the country, and it would require that Iran carry out its uranium enrichment activities in Russia.
The pact does not say whether the United States would play any direct role in supplying Iran's nuclear program. But it notes the Europeans are committed to negotiating a fuel supply agreement between Iran and Euratom, a European Community agency that ensures supply of nuclear fuel for European countries.
Relations between Washington and Tehran have been icy since the supporters of the Ayatollah Khomeini toppled the U.S.-backed government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and seized hostages at the U.S. Embassy in 1979. The United States, which accuses Iran of sponsoring terrorism and secretly developing nuclear weapons, has restricted most U.S. trade with the Islamic state.
Iran has complained that a U.S. ban on the supply of spare parts for the country's aging fleet of Boeing commercial jets has made air travel dangerous. But successive U.S. administrations, and Congress, have been reluctant to sell Iran "dual use goods," which have a civilian and military application.
David Albright, an expert on Iran's nuclear program, said that the current offer strikes an appropriate balance between providing Iran with some high-tech goods that would improve the lives of ordinary Iranians while depriving the Islamic government access to equipment that would give it a military edge.
"It's dangerous to get on an Iranian airplane," Albright said. "This would help the Iranian population by providing them with things like a better telephone system, and better agricultural technology. They're not going to provide state-of-the-art military communications."