- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 16, 2006

VIENNA, Austria — European nations yesterday weighed adding a light-water reactor to a package of incentives meant to persuade Iran either to give up uranium enrichment or face the threat of U.N. Security Council sanctions over its nuclear programs.

Senior diplomats and officials from the European Union, speaking on background, said the plans were being discussed by France, Britain and Germany as part of a proposal to be presented to representatives of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members at a meeting in London.

The nations are the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington that a “package” was being prepared for Iran’s consideration that would give Tehran a choice between intransigence and a “pathway of cooperation.” He declined to say whether a light-water reactor would be offered to Iran.

Mr. McCormack said Tehran would be required to halt its program of enriching and reprocessing uranium on Iranian soil.

“We and others do not want the Iranian regime to have the ability to master those critical pathways to a nuclear weapon,” he said.

Tehran gave no immediate comment on the reported offer.

Those in Europe who discussed the idea emphasized that the proposal was tentative and complex and depended on demonstrated good behavior by Iran for a period.

“It’s much more complicated than simply saying the EU is going to offer light-water reactors” to Iran, said one European government official, declining to elaborate.

A French official suggested that everything depended on Iran’s readiness to discuss details in new negotiations between the Europeans and Tehran and said it could take years to build any such facility.

Officials said the London meeting of Security Council representatives, originally scheduled for Friday, might be delayed to next week to allow U.S., Russian and Chinese officials to work out their differences over the kinds of incentives and penalties to be presented to Iran.

A light-water reactor is considered less likely to be misused for nuclear proliferation than the heavy-water facility that Iran is building at the city of Arak, which — once completed by early 2009 — will produce plutonium waste.

Still, light-water reactors are not proliferation-proof, because they use enriched uranium as fuel. Although uranium enriched to low levels cannot be used in a weapons program, it can be processed to make highly enriched “weapons-grade” material for nuclear warheads.

The Clinton administration was behind a similar offer to North Korea in the 1990s, when it proposed building two light-water reactors if Pyongyang gave up a plutonium-producing heavy water research reactor.

The offer was frozen in 2002 and ultimately withdrawn after the United States said North Korea had admitted to conducting a second, secret nuclear-weapons program.

In the latest sign of persisting differences with the United States over Iran, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said yesterday that Beijing and Moscow will not vote for the use of force in resolving the nuclear dispute.

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