In recent weeks there have been some contradictory signals regarding Iran’s nuclear issue with the UN. On the one hand, there was a new package of incentives for Iran by the Iran-6 group of nations composed of Britain, France,Germany, Russia, China and the United States. On the other hand there have been fresh threats of sanctions by Bush and Browne, followed by some serious sabre rattling from Israel.
This was in turn followed by a threat of resignation by the Chief of the IAEA in case Iran were attacked because "I don't believe that what I see in Iran today is a current, grave and urgent danger. If a military strike is carried out against Iran at this time ... it would make me unable to continue my work..." Al Baradei also warned that any such an attack on Iran would turn the region into a ‘fireball’.
The picture is quite confusing, and in the absence of real transparency from any side, one is left with pure speculation. So what ‘facts’ can we decipher from the situation?
The new package of incentives:
A quick search through various news sources reveals that the package is comprehensive and far reaching:
The package apparently does not require an immediate halt to enrichment, but a freeze at the current levels for 6 weeks. In other words, Iran is being asked not to expand its capacity beyond current levels of enrichment until a full suspension is agreed in direct return for concrete incentives such as agreement on building a light water reactor based on state-of-the-art technology as well as legally binding guarantees for nuclear fuel supplies. Support is also offered for research and development in nuclear energy "as international confidence is gradually restored" and help in managing its spent fuel and radioactive waste. This actually means that Iran can continue with enrichment once ‘confidence’ is restored. These constitute far-reaching concessions by the Iran-6.
This is the most surprising of the lot. The package offers support for Iran in playing an important and constructive role in international affairs. It would meet Iranian demands for cooperation "on non-proliferation, regional security and stabilization issues" as well as a conference on Middle East security issues. It says that a solution to Iran's nuclear issue would contribute to "realizing the objective of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, including their means of delivery". This is a clear reference to dealing with Israel’s nuclear arsenal.
The package also calls for moves toward normalizing Iran's trade and economic ties with the rest of the world by helping to integrate Iran into "international structures, including the World Trade Organization." It also proposes the possible removal of restrictions on manufacturers exporting aircraft to Iran.
It calls for helping Iran become fully self-sufficient" in food through cooperation in modern technology and proposed civilian projects in environmental protection, infrastructure, science and technology.
The package also calls for helping Iranians take courses in areas like civil engineering, agriculture and environmental studies, and would also help Iran develop capacities to respond to disasters like earthquakes and other emergencies.
A few weeks before the new offer was presented, Iran presented its own package to the Iran-6 and the UN. The key element of this package was a regional consortium for uranium enrichment to be built in Iran in collaboration with international agencies and interested parties. This would be staffed by international experts and constantly monitored by them and the IAEA.
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