- The Washington Times - Friday, August 5, 2005

From combined dispatches

The Bush administration for the first time yesterday accepted that Iran may develop civilian nuclear programs, backing a European Union proposal that would allow Tehran to pursue atomic power in exchange for giving up its work on fuel.

In an offer that completed a gradual shift in U.S. policy, Washington acquiesced because it thinks the EU offer has enough safeguards to prevent Iran from diverting its civilian work into making nuclear bombs.

“We support the [Europeans’] effort and the proposal they have put forward to find a diplomatic solution to this problem and to seek an end to Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters.

European diplomats offered to provide fuel and other long-term support to help Iranians generate electricity with nuclear energy if Iran agreed not to develop nuclear weapons.

The proposal from Britain, France and Germany, which are representing the European Union, also included an offer of greater economic, political and security cooperation if the Tehran government agrees.

A senior Iranian official close to the negotiations told Reuters news agency that the European countries had offered to back Iran as the main oil transit route from Central Asia, but a summary of the EU proposals contained no such offer.

Iran, home to the world’s second largest oil and gas reserves, has long promoted itself as an alternative route for delivering land-locked Caspian oil to world markets, but has met opposition from the United States.

Iran has long claimed its nuclear program is solely for the peaceful production of electricity, while Washington charges the real aim was to produce arms. The discovery of clandestine aspects of Iran’s program raised worries among other nations and pressures have mounted on Iran.

The 34-page proposal promises Iran a long-term supply of enriched uranium from other countries, on the condition that spent fuel is returned. Iran also would be able to buy peaceful nuclear technology, opening the door to such deals as Russia’s $800 million contract to build a reactor in the southern Iranian port city of Bushehr and supply fuel.

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