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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iran Scoffs at Offer of American Incentives

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran scoffed at U.S. incentives aimed at coaxing the Islamic republic to drop its nuclear ambitions, with Tehran saying Saturday that Washington's overtures offered nothing in the way of a concession.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said neither threats nor incentives would alter Iran's determination to develop peaceful nuclear technology. An Iranian envoy in Europe agreed, but acknowledged in guardedly positive terms there appeared to be a "new awakening" in Washington.

Washington insists Tehran's uranium enrichment program is aimed at developing a bomb, not merely providing an alternative energy source.

Tehran's defiance came a day after the administration of U.S. president George W. Bush softened its stance on how to thwart Iran's nuclear program and agreed to support a European plan that offers economic incentives for the Tehran government to give up any weapons ambitions.

U.S. concessions announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice included dropping opposition to Iran's application for membership in the World Trade Organization and allowing the sale of some spare parts for civilian aircraft. Rice signaled that Iran should quickly accept -- or face the threat of harsh United Nations Security Council sanctions.

Asefi said Rice's offer was no offer at all.

"The restrictions on spare parts that have no military purpose should have not been imposed from the beginning, and lifting them is not an incentive," state-run radio quoted Asefi as saying.

And, he said, "Joining the WTO is an obvious right of any country in the world."

Washington had previously insisted Iran deserved no reward for abiding by an international arms compact that forbids nuclear weapons development.

Asefi accused Washington of issuing false and "hypocritical" claims about Tehran's nuclear ambitions, and pushing European Union negotiators closer toward Washington's tougher stance.

"Iran is determined to use peaceful nuclear technology, and no pressure, incentive or threat can force Iran to give up its rights," Asefi said.

However, Sirous Nasseri, an Iranian envoy in Europe who spoke by telephone from Geneva in Vienna, described Rice's announcement Friday as a "new awakening ... I believe would stand to benefit the United States more than anybody else."

Iran suspended its uranium enrichment activities last year to create confidence in its negotiations and avoid Security Council referral. But Tehran says maintaining the voluntary freeze depends on progress in ongoing talks with Britain, Germany and France, who are negotiating on behalf of the European Union.

Russia welcomed the softening of the U.S. stance, hoping U.S. actions will conform with "the line that both Russia and Western European countries are pursuing in efforts to remove all questions relating to the character of Iran's nuclear program on the basis of cooperation," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said.

Russia, which is building a nuclear reactor in Iran under a contract that has caused U.S. concern for years, has expressed support for the EU's diplomatic efforts.