Kerry and EU would offer Iran a nuclear deal

Thursday, September 3, 2004

WASHINGTON Democratic presidential challenger John Kerry has signaled a departure in U.S. policy regarding Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Kerry aides said that, if elected, his administration, in cooperation with the European Union, would offer a deal to Iran that would allow the Islamic republic to retain its nuclear facilities. In return, Teheran would have to pledge to return all imported nuclear fuel acquired for its reactor at Bushehr.

The Kerry position has long been recommended by State Department circles. Current and former U.S. diplomats have warned against a U.S. confrontation with Iran, instead proposing a so-called "grand bargain" with Teheran that would include a removal of sanctions imposed on Iran.

Earlier this year, the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace issued a report that called on the United States, Europe and Russia to devise "a combination of costs and incentives" to change Iran's course. The report recommended that Iran "be guaranteed a commercially viable supply of low-enriched uranium for its nuclear reactors and for the removal and disposal of spent fuel," Middle East Newsline reported.

"If we are engaging with Iranians in an effort to reach this great bargain and if in fact this is a bluff that they are trying to develop nuclear weapons capability, then we know that our European friends will stand with us," Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards said.

In speeches and interviews granted this week, Edwards stressed that a Democratic presidential administration would not ease U.S. opposition to an Iranian nuclear bomb.

"A nuclear Iran is unacceptable for so many reasons, including the possibility that it creates a gateway and the need for other countries in the region to develop nuclear capability Saudi Arabia, Egypt, potentially others," Edwards told the Washington Post.

Kerry first discussed Iran policy in a speech in June. During that speech, he said his administration would attempt to reach an agreement with the Iranians, a position later echoed by Edwards.

"At the end of the day [Bush officials] can argue all they want about their policies," Edwards said. "But the test is: Have they worked? And Iran is further along in developing a nuclear weapon than they were when George Bush came into office."

The Bush administration has pressed the International Atomic Energy Agency to continue with inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities.

The administration has sought to bring the Iranian nuclear issue to the United Nations Security Council for the imposition of sanctions.

But Bush said in a television interview on Aug. 31 that he seeks a diplomatic solution to end Iran's nuclear program.

"The military option is always the last option for a president, not the first," Bush said.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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