AFP: Envoys from the Group of Eight industrialized nations met here Friday to discuss ways of making Iran give up its alleged nuclear weapons program but reached no decisions on a European proposal to offer Tehran incentives to do so, a
senior US official said.
AFP

WASHINGTON - Envoys from the Group of Eight industrialized nations met here Friday to discuss ways of making Iran give up its alleged nuclear weapons program but reached no decisions on a European proposal to offer Tehran incentives to do so, a senior US official said.

Throughout the three-hour meeting at the State Department, the United States held firm to its position that Iran must comply with demands from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to suspend uranium enrichment activities and answer all questions about its nuclear ambitions by November 25 or be referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, the official said.

"We heard them out," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity, referring to measures proposed by Britain, France and Germany that diplomatic sources say would give Iran access to imported nuclear fuel in return for a total suspension of its own work on the nuclear fuel cycle.

"They came, we saw and we conferred but we didn't decide on any new course of action," the official said, adding that there was no "backsliding" on the IAEA deadline for Iran, which was set at the last meeting of the agency's board of governors in September.

"There is no backsliding," the official said. "Iran has to fully comply by November and if they don't then we'll take appropriate steps.

"Between now and then, the Europeans may have their ideas but that doesn't prejudice our position and what we think the course of action should be if they don't comply," the official added.

Washington has taken an increasingly hard line on Iran, which it accuses of secretely developing nuclear weapons under cover of an atomic power program and in recent weeks has insisted that it already well past time for the matter to be sent to the Security Council.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and John Bolton, the hawkish undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, represented the United States at the meeting which included diplomats from the other G8 members -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia.

The meeting had been billed by the State Department as an opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas at which no decisions would be made, but diplomatic sources said it was also intended to show the international community's serious concern about Iran obtaining nuclear arms.

Iran insists its nuclear program is purely for civilian energy purposes but a top Iranian lawmaker said Thursday his country would bar international nuclear inspections if debate on its nuclear program moved to the UN Security Council as Washington wants.

Armitage has said that Washington is open to proposals regarding Iran, but that the matter must be referred to the Security Council unless Tehran comes forward quickly to resolve the concerns.

US diplomats have said a softening of Washington's hardline policy against Tehran is not being considered, but analysts believe some incentives might be in the offing if Iran shows good will on the issue.

The sources said Washington is not likely to seek a more open dialogue with Tehran on the matter until after the November 2 presidential election here, rather than risk a political storm as voters head to the polls.

Democratic challenger John Kerry has berated President George W. Bush for failing to deal with Tehran while going to war with Iraq on faulty intelligence.

Examination of Iran's nuclear program by the UN Security Council would be a first step to imposing UN economic sanctions against the Islamic republic, something Russia, which has veto power at the council, is likely to oppose because of its deep economic ties with the country.

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