Tehran Urges New Round Of Talks

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 21, 2008

As the presidential candidates debate whether to deal with the Iranian regime, Tehran has called for new international talks on political, economic and security issues, including its controversial nuclear program and the Arab-Israeli peace process, according to a copy of the proposal released yesterday.

The proposal, attached to a May 13 letter from Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, includes cooperation spanning nuclear disarmament, peaceful nuclear technology, improved supervision by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, and establishing "fuel production consortiums" in several countries, including Iran. It also urges wide-ranging negotiations to help the Palestinians achieve a "sustainable, democratic and fair" solution to the and calls for joint efforts to strengthen democracy in the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa and Latin America.

The proposal also calls for collaboration against terrorism, drugs and illegal immigration.

Iran's proposal comes as the world's six major powers are set to offer Tehran revised incentives to suspend uranium enrichment, including access to new aircraft and negotiations on critical issues that will include senior U.S. diplomats.

But Iran's plan makes no pledge to suspend uranium enrichment, a process for both peaceful energy and weapons development -- and at the heart of an international effort to ensure that the country does not develop a nuclear capability.

The Bush administration is studying the proposal and is consulting with Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, while working on a date for European Union foreign affairs chief Javier Solana to present the incentives to Iran, the State Department said. But Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates yesterday questioned dealing with the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad because of the "resurgence of the original hard-line views of the Islamic revolutionaries."

Gates told a Senate panel: "The key here is developing leverage, either through economic or diplomatic or military pressures on the Iranian government, so that they believe they must have talks with the United States."

The White House yesterday shot down an Israeli media report that President Bush and Vice President Cheney favor military action against Iran. Spokeswoman Dana Perino said Bush prefers diplomacy, and she dismissed the report as "not worth the paper it's written on."

A European official characterized Iran's proposal as "detached from reality." Iran rejects talks based on U.N. resolutions, the envoy noted, but then appeals to the world body to consider negotiations on its terms. "It's all a bit of game," he said.

In his letter, Mottaki said Iran believes "reasonable and just negotiations without preconditions and based on mutual respect is the basic solution for the promotion and improvement of international situations." He did not mention Iraq and Afghanistan, but noted that Iran can aid regional stability.

The proposal and letter were published by the Institute for Science and International Security. ISIS President David Albright said it would be a mistake to dismiss Iran's offer. "I see it as a way to start negotiations," he said, "albeit with the two sides far apart."

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