- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in an exclusive interview published in this newspaper on Saturday, said that the United States is prepared to join with Europe in offering incentives for Iran to halt its efforts to develop nuclear weapons and end its support for terrorism. Within hours, the Iranian regime gave its answer: The Western democracies can in effect go jump in a lake.

Miss Rice combined a soberminded realism about the mullahs’ mendacious behavior with a willingness to offer incentives for them to change it. She noted, for example, that beyond its nuclear-weapons efforts and repression of its own people, the Islamic republic must end its support for terrorism. “This is going to be a long struggle with the Iranians, who are about as entangled in terrorist activity as you can possibly be,” Miss Rice said.

But despite this, she explained that Washington is prepared to join with its European allies to offer Iran a way out of its political isolation. The secretary noted that, in an effort to resolve the nuclear impasse with Tehran, the United States is prepared to agree to license spare parts for Iranian civilian aircraft and to enable Iran, if the regime abandons its uranium-enrichment efforts, to apply for membership in the World Trade Organization. In exchange, the Europeans, led by Britain, France and Germany — the countries which have spearheaded the unsuccessful efforts to persuade Iran to come clean about its nuclear program — have promised to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions if it continues to cheat.

According to the French government, Washington has given Europe what it expected by making trade concessions to Iran. “These gestures made recently by the United States give us what we expected and show that the United States, like Russia and China … wants to give negotiations a chance,” French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said.

But on Saturday, Sirus Nasseri, the head of the Iranian team negotiating with the Europeans, said the abandonment of uranium enrichment was not even being discussed. He ruled out any possibility that Iran would agree to IAEA Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei’s proposal for a moratorium on enrichment. Mr. Nasseri also dismissed U.S. economic incentives, saying they are unrelated to Iran’s nuclear program. A banner at Friday prayers at Tehran University, which was broadcast over Iranian national television, quoted Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei as declaring: “We will not stop our nuclear activities … It is our red line.”

So, the United States and the Europeans have put forward their offer, and Iran, true to form, seems determined to take all the West’s “carrots” and throw them in the trash.

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