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Bush offered to lift sanctions against Iran

UNITED NATIONS – The Bush administration agreed last month to consider lifting long-standing sanctions on the sale of commercial jets, agricultural equipment and telecommunications technology to Iran if it agreed to halt its enrichment of uranium and submit to more intrusive U.N. inspections of its nuclear program, according to a copy of the agreement made public Thursday.

The offer, which would require congressional approval, was contained in an incentive package presented to Iran in June by the United States, Russia, China France, Britain and Germany to persuade it to halt its nuclear activities. Foreign ministers from those six countries, who were meeting Wednesday in Paris, expressed frustration at Iran’s refusal to quickly agree to the incentives and vowed to confront Tehran in the Security Council.

The three-page confidential document was presented Thursday to the 15-nation council in advance of negotiations on a resolution that would demand Iran halt the enrichment of uranium and reprocessing of nuclear fuel.

“The Iranians have given no indication at all that they are ready to engage seriously on the substance of our proposals,” French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in a statement read at the end of the Wednesday meeting of the global powers.

The package presented to the council Thursday provides no explicit assurances Tehran has sought to bar U.S. military strikes on its territory. Instead, it pledges the major powers’ support for a vaguely defined international conference to “promote dialogue and cooperation” on regional security.

For its part, the council’s five major powers and Germany would halt consideration of Iran’s nuclear program in the Security Council, work to improve the Islamic government’s “access to the international economy markets and capital,” support its entry into the World Trade Organization and help to foster more trade and investment with Iran.

The United States and its partners would also help Iran build an unspecified number of light water nuclear reactors and provide Iran legally binding assurances of a reliable supply of nuclear fuel.


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N. Korea, setting stage for talks, halts nuclear, ICBM tests

UPDATED: 10:03 p.m.

North Korea said Saturday it has suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests and plans to close its nuclear test site ahead of a new round of negotiations with South Korea and the United States. There was no clear indication in the North’s announcement if it would be willing to deal away its arsenal.