- The Washington Times - Friday, May 19, 2006

European diplomats yesterday urged the United States to consider selling new commercial aircraft to Iran as part of an incentives package for Tehran to stop enriching uranium and abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The Europeans have also proposed a regional security dialogue, hopeful that such talks could eventually draw Washington and Tehran, adversaries for more than 25 years, into direct contacts.

The proposal, which includes other economic and security guarantees to Iran, presents a dilemma to the Bush administration because it would require huge concessions by Washington.

It prompted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to postpone a meeting in London with Europeans that was originally scheduled for yesterday, U.S. and European officials said.

The meeting has been tentatively rescheduled for Tuesday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad mocks Western foes of Iranian nuclear work as mentally disturbed and says Iran will never give up its right to enrich uranium, a fuel for nuclear reactors and atomic bombs.

“Those who get sad at the progress and happiness of others are suffering from mental and psychological problems, so they should find a way to cure themselves,” Mr. Ahmadinejad told a group of students Thursday, Reuters news agency reported.

The London meeting is to include the U.N. Security Council five permanent members and Germany in order to map out benefits for Iran if it stops enriching uranium and penalties if it does not.

The U.S. State Department, which will be represented by R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, declined to comment on the latest European plan.

Miss Rice agreed to hold the session during a contentious dinner she hosted in New York last week with her counterparts from the Security Council — Britain, China, France and Russia.

The European diplomats, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because their package is not yet public, noted that the Bush administration recently agreed to sell Iran spare parts for U.S.-made aircraft.

Offering Tehran brand-new U.S. and European commercial aircraft would be part of the package’s economic basket, which would also include other carrots, such as European investment, the diplomats said.

Iran would also be offered a light-water nuclear reactor, a technology from which it is difficult to make fuel for nuclear weapons.

The European proposal would also have the United States exempt from any economic sanctions European companies that operate in Iran.

The United States, Britain, China, France and Russia would give Tehran guarantees that they would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states.

“That framework could be an umbrella to engage the United States in direct talks with Iran if needed,” one senior diplomat said.

Thus far, the United States has refused to speak directly to Iran.

The diplomat suggested that multinational talks, which included the United States, could be likened the six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Meanwhile in Vienna, Austria, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani has promised that Tehran will cooperate with U.N. inspectors, in a meeting with U.N. atomic chief Mohamed ElBaradei which the Iranians called “constructive.”

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