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U.S. bid to resolve Iran standoff

From CNN State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel
Iran has said its nuclear facilities, like this one at Arak, are for peaceful purposes only.
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Israel fears if Iran goes nuclear, it may affect the balance of power in the Mideast
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration says it will host a meeting of G8 diplomats this week in Washington in a bid to resolve a nuclear impasse with Iran.

Iran has until November 25 to comply with U.N. demands that it suspend uranium enrichment activities.

At the meeting, to be held on Friday, European officials told CNN they would offer Tehran "bigger sticks and bigger carrots."

They expect to present a package of possible incentives to Iran as an inducement in exchange for abandoning its nuclear ambitions.

The details of the package are still being negotiated within European capitals but incentives could include, for example, the resumption of negotiations for a trade and cooperation agreement between the European Union and Iran.

The meeting is set to take place at the U.S. State Department, and its expanded format brings major industrialized nations such as Canada, Italy, Russia and Japan into the talks.

But even before the meeting, U.S. and European officials were lowering expectations that any breakthrough would be achieved.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Tuesday the meeting would focus on how to bring Iran into compliance with the requirements of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, as well as how the Security Council might take up the issue should it be referred to them.

Another U.S. official described the meeting as nothing more than "kabuki theater" -- an opportunity to give the appearance of action, when in fact little substance was expected to be discussed.

The Bush administration has accused Iran of secretly developing a nuclear weapons program and is pushing for the matter to be referred to the U.N. Security Council where additional sanctions might be considered.

The IAEA's 35-member board of governors is expected to meet again at the end of November to discuss the issue.

To date, the Bush administration has resisted the so-called "carrot and stick" approach with Iran -- a point underscored Tuesday by the State Department.

"I think you'll have to check with the Europeans as far as what their package will involve; whether it's anything new or whether it's just what they've always made clear, that there were certain benefits in the relationship that wouldn't happen without action by Iran on nuclear and other matters," Boucher said.

In September, the head of the IAEA concluded there was concrete evidence Iran was deceiving the international community about its nuclear energy program and moving ahead with a clandestine program to develop nuclear weapons.

The U.S. has been unable to win international support for an automatic trigger to refer Iran's case to the United Nations for possible economic sanction if it does not halt its uranium enrichment program in coming weeks.

"I think we've made very, very clear that Iran needs to take action on the nuclear issue," Boucher said.

"Our view is that it should be referred to the U.N. Security Council. That's where we think the next steps are."

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