Iran Dismisses Economic Offer From the U.S.

By NAZILA FATHI

New York Times

March 12, 2005

TEHRAN, March 12 - Iran reacted testily on Saturday to a statement from the United States offering modest economic incentives if it permanently ended the enrichment of uranium, saying that it would not give up its right to nuclear power.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is determined to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, and no pressure, bribe or threat can make Iran give up its legitimate right," said a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamidreza Assefi, in a statement carried on the ministry's Web site.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced on Friday that the United States was shifting to a somewhat more conciliatory approach on Iran, offering to back limited economic incentives if Iran agrees to a series of steps that would permanently give up any opportunity to building nuclear arms.

Europe's leading nations also warned that if Iran did not give up the program, they would have "no choice" but to seek punishment at the United Nations Security Council. Iran's defense minister, Ali Shamkhani, dismissed the warning. The ISNA news agency quoted him saying, "We are ready to confront any threats, and protecting our nuclear installations is part of this equation."

Mr. Assefi's statement said that the American offer could not keep Iran from "its legitimate rights," an apparent reference to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran signed. But the statement did not make an explicit reference to enrichment, perhaps leaving open the possibility of negotiations over Europe's offer to supply Iran with the fuel. That would mean Iran would be able to power its nuclear plants without having to enrich uranium itself. Highly enriched uranium can be used for bomb fuel.

The Iranians seemed unimpressed by the two major incentives offered by the United States: dropping objections to Iran's effort to enter the World Trade Organization and allowing Iran to buy spare parts for commercial aircraft.

"The restriction on spare parts that were of no military use should have not been imposed from the beginning, and lifting them is not an incentive" Mr. Assefi said.

David E. Sanger contributed reporting from Washington for this article.