Europeans Mull Giving Iran Reactor

VIENNA -- Key European nations are considering offering Iran a light-water nuclear reactor if as part of incentives meant to persuade Tehran to give up its uranium enrichment program, diplomats and officials said Tuesday.

A U.S. official said Washington would likely oppose the plan.

A senior diplomat familiar with international attempts to dissuade Iran from enrichment said the plans were tentative and still being discussed among France, Britain and Germany as part of a possible package to be presented Friday to senior representatives of the five permanent UN Security Council member nations.

He demanded anonymity in exchange for divulging the confidential information.

In the British capital, officials confirmed the offer was among options to be discussed at the London talks but said suggestions that it had been decided on as part of the incentives were premature.

"Clearly we are working out the details and that will be a matter for the talks in London," a British foreign office spokesman said on condition of anonymity, in line with government policy.

A French official was more cautious, suggesting all depended on Iran's readiness to discuss details in new negotiations between the Europeans and Tehran.

"We are not going to offer them a finished reactor," he told the AP.

"For the moment, one can only identify large general categories [of cooperation] and only if they say that they are interested ... can we start to discuss the details with them," he said. "Otherwise, we are putting the cart before the horse."

A light-water reactor is considered less likely to be misused for nuclear proliferation than the heavy water facility Iran is currently building at the central city of Arak, which -- once completed -- will produce plutonium waste.

Fears that Iran's enrichment program could be misused for weapons are at the center of international attempts to strip Tehran of ambitions to enrich domestically. Any European offer of one or more light-water reactors -- however far down the road -- would have to be conditional on Iran rejecting its enrichment plans and accepting foreign deliveries of low-enriched uranium for fuel. That is something Tehran has hitherto steadfastly rejected.

Washington has been at the forefront of moves to pressure Iran to give up enrichment and has in recent months swung behind a proposal from Moscow to provide Tehran with fuel-grade uranium produced in Russia instead.

An official in an EU capital said the idea had not yet been discussed with Russia, China or the United States, all of which are on the Security Council

In an initial reaction, a U.S. official told The Associated Press that any plan to offer the Iranians a light-water reactor "would be met with a real sense of skepticism" by the Americans. Even in the unlikely event that the Iranians gave up plans of domestic enrichment in return, such a facility could help them acquire the technology to develop a full-fledged nuclear program with the potential for misuse, he said.

"If Iran is bent on having a nuclear weapons program, we ought not to be helping with that," said the official, echoing U.S. assertions that Iran's activities were a cover for developing the atomic bomb.