Accessibility links

Breaking News

Major Powers Look At New Ways To Coax Iran

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Senior diplomats from six major powers meeting in London are expected to discuss ways to entice Iran to give up sensitive nuclear work, a U.S. official and diplomats said.

Permanent UN Security Council members Britain, the United States, France, China, Russia, and a senior official from Germany will mull a range of incentives to change Iran's behavior and get the Iranians back to talks, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"We are trying to bring Iran back to the [negotiating] table," the U.S. official added. "It may be repackaging of old ideas but there are some ideas we may be able to present."

A Western diplomat, who also asked not to be named, said additional sanctions also would likely be discussed although Russia and China have balked at further punitive measures against Iran.

The London meeting follows President Barack Obama's talks with foreign leaders in Europe in which he shared early results from an ongoing U.S. policy review toward Iran.

Obama, said one diplomat, made clear he would break from the Bush administration's isolation policy of Iran and that Washington wanted a full role in any future negotiations by the six major powers with Tehran on its nuclear program.

The hope is that full U.S. participation in such talks would encourage Iran to take them more seriously.

In a rare departure last year, the Bush administration's point person on Iran -- William Burns -- sat in for the first time on a meeting with major powers to hear Iran's response to an incentives package offered to give up its enrichment.

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Burns, whom Obama retained as undersecretary of state, would be at the meeting, but he declined to provide details of what the United States might suggest at those London talks.

"It's obviously to chart the way forward in terms of dealing with Iran's nuclear program," Wood said. "I don't want to get ahead of the actual meeting itself."

Last summer, major powers proposed a package of financial and diplomatic incentives to get Tehran to give up the uranium enrichment the West says is aimed at building a nuclear bomb.

Iran says its program is peaceful and intended to generate electricity.

A "freeze-for-freeze" idea was also offered -- Iran must freeze expansion of its nuclear program in return for the UN Security Council halting further sanctions measures. The United Nations has imposed three rounds of sanctions.

The freeze-for-freeze idea is expected to be discussed again at these talks although Iran has said repeatedly it will not abandon its "right" to enrich uranium.

The April 8 meeting follows a series of overtures by the Obama administration toward Iran. Last week, the U.S. delegation at a conference on Afghanistan in the Hague directly handed over a letter, or aide-memoire, to the Iranians.

The letter, which sought Iran's help in the case of three Americans, was a rare U.S. attempt to deal directly with Tehran instead of via Swiss interlocutors, who usually handle such matters as the two countries do not have diplomatic ties.

"The aide-memoire was symbolic of a shift in that we are prepared for direct diplomacy," the U.S. official said.

In addition, senior U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke sought out the Iranian representative at the Hague meeting and held a brief, cordial conversation. Last month, Obama issued a video appeal to the Iranian people, urging "constructive ties" and a new beginning in U.S.-Iranian relations.