AFP
EU's Solana in Iran to present nuclear proposal

by Siavosh Ghazi Mon Jun 5, 8:53 PM ET

TEHRAN (AFP) -

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana flew into Tehran to hand an international nuclear proposal to
Iran
's leadership, voicing hope of a "new relationship" with the Islamic republic.

The package, agreed on last week by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, offers Iran incentives and fresh multilateral talks -- involving the United States -- on condition that Tehran first suspends sensitive uranium enrichment work.

That work is at the centre of fears the country could acquire weapons.

"We want to start a new relationship on the basis of mutual respect and mutual trust," Solana said in brief comments to reporters after flying in from a visit to

Israel and the
West Bank
.

"We want to restart a fresh relationship and we want to do it based on what I said before, based on a spirit of trust and respect and confidence. The proposal we bring along will allow us to get engaged in negotiations based on trust, confidence and respect," he said.

Western officials have said Iran will be expected to give its response within a matter of weeks. If Tehran refuses to return to an enrichment freeze, it faces the threat of tough UN Security Council action, including possible sanctions.

Diplomats said Solana would submit the proposal to Iran's top national security official Ali Larijani on Tuesday morning, but without negotiations. He may also meet with hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iran has refused to stop what it maintains is a peaceful nuclear programme, but has promised that it will at least consider the proposal.

"If their aim is not to politicise the issue and if they take our demands into consideration, we can reach a reasonable agreement," Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters earlier at Tehran airport.

"We will examine this proposal and give our reply after the end of the defined period," he added.

In Washington, the White House said "there is hope" that Tehran will accept the internationally brokered compromise.

"I would counsel patience," spokesman Tony Snow told reporters. "At this point, as we've said all along, let's give it time. Let's let the Iranians take a look at what the offers are, at the incentives and disincentives."

The United States charges that Iran is using its nuclear program to hide a quest for atomic weapons, but has also offered to join direct talks with Tehran and -- according to diplomats -- lift certain sanctions if Iran agrees to a freeze.

Washington, whose ties with Tehran were severed more than two decades ago, has since the mid-1990s banned most US trade and investment in the Islamic republic.

"The condition for getting to the negotiating table is to suspend enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. That's the first step. Should that happen, then the whole series of other things can take place," Snow said.

"There's neither optimism nor pessimism; there is hope" that Iranian leaders will accept, he said.

But a string of tough comments from Iranian officials have left many diplomats fearing that the offer could prove to be dead on arrival.

On Saturday, Ahmadinejad revealed that in a telephone conversation earlier Saturday with UN Secretary General

Kofi Annan he had been asked "to examine the proposals and not act hastily".

But the president has also ruled out halting enrichment, saying that "negotiating our absolute right would be like accepting to negotiate on our independence."

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Sunday that his country would not buckle in the face of "threats and bribes".

"We have achieved a lot of scientific goals," Khamenei said in a speech marking the 17th anniversary of the death of Iran's Islamic revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

"This is an historic investment. It represents our political independence and national self-confidence. We should not sell out this precious resource because of the enemies' threats and we should not be fooled by enemy bribes," he said.

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