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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 00:58 GMT 01:58 UK
US accepts Iran UN nuclear delay
By Pam O'Toole
BBC News

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana (l) and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Major powers are divided over the route to follow
The US Secretary of State has said that efforts to pursue a tough UN Security Council resolution on Iran's nuclear programme will be delayed.

Condoleezza Rice said European countries would resume diplomatic efforts to persuade Tehran to change its position.

The US suspects Iran of trying to secretly develop a nuclear weapon, something which Iran denies.

Tehran has so far ignored calls from the UN to suspend uranium enrichment.

It points out that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty allows it to carry out such activities.

Western efforts to press ahead with a tough UN Security Council resolution appear to have hit resistance from two of the Council's veto holding permanent members, China and Russia.

There have been reports that the so-called EU3 could launch a new effort to offer carrots as well as sticks to Iran

Both are known to be unenthusiastic about the idea of a resolution under Chapter Seven of the UN charter, which could eventually lead to sanctions.

They have been urging more diplomacy to resolve the standoff.

Foreign ministers from the Council's five permanent members and Germany met in New York this week.

Since then, there have been reports that three European countries who have negotiated with Iran in the past - the so-called EU3 - could launch a new effort to offer carrots as well as sticks to Iran to curtail its controversial nuclear programme.

Two options

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Mr Ahmadinejad has accused his critics of hypocrisy

Condoleezza Rice said they would still continue to seek a Security Council resolution but explained what their discussions had achieved.

"We agreed...we would wait for a couple of weeks, while the Europeans design an offer to the Iranians that would make clear that they have a choice that would allow them to have a civil nuclear programme if that is indeed what they want," she said.

Speaking on American television, Ms Rice said the EU3 wanted to show Iran that it had two options.

It could either defy the international community and face isolation and UN Security Council action.

Or it could accept a path with a civilian nuclear programme that was acceptable to the international community.

Last summer, the EU3 offered Iran a package of economic, political and technological incentives aimed at persuading it to give up sensitive uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.

Tehran rejected those proposals and has since ignored the Security Council's calls for it to resume a suspension of uranium enrichment activities.

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