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Major Powers Strike Deal over Iran’s Nuclear Program

“We have agreed to a set of far-reaching proposals as a basis for discussions with Iran. We believe they offer Iran the chance to reach a negotiated agreement based on cooperation,” said British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett in announcing the pact between the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany.

Although there were no specifics offered during the brief press conference to announce the agreement, before she traveled to the talks, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made clear what the U.S. expected from Iran.

“We all know what we’re talking about. They need to stop all of their [uranium] enrichment and reprocessing activities and then go back to the table,” Rice told the NewsHour Wednesday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed in April that his nation had successfully enriched uranium, a critical step for Iran to develop a domestic source of nuclear fuel for either civilian energy efforts or for a military program to build an atomic bomb.

For weeks Russian and Chinese officials have refused to back calls for sanctions on the Tehran government because of its current nuclear effort, but for Rice the goal of the Vienna talks included getting the reluctant veto-wielding members of the Council to come along.

“I think the Russians understand fully and we understand together that the Iranians now have a new opportunity to demonstrate that they’re seriously ready to negotiate,” Rice said Wednesday. “And if they don’t, then it is incumbent on the international community to go to the Security Council, to get a resolution, and to begin to look at what actions we can take that might make the Iranians make a different choice.”

In her comments Thursday, the British foreign minister appeared to echo the American threat should Iran refuse to negotiate.

“We are prepared to resume negotiations should Iran resume suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities as required by the IAEA,” Beckett said. “And we would also suspend action in the Security Council. We also agreed that if Iran decides not to engage in negotiations further steps would have to be taken in the Security Council. So there are two paths ahead.”

The Iranian government had no immediate comment on the new offer, but has repeatedly rebuffed any call to end its uranium enrichment effort in exchange for incentives.

“Do you think you are dealing with a 4-year-old child to whom you can give some walnuts and chocolates and get gold from him?” Ahmadinejad told a crowd in mid-May, Reuters reported at the time.

But some diplomats in Vienna hoped Iran would take up the offer from the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany.

One European diplomat told Reuters the apparent Iranian rejection of the latest offer should not be taken as the final word on the deal.

“We have not presented the package to them yet and nothing they’ve said so far seems to rule out taking up this opportunity,” he said.

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