NEW YORK - The United States and Europe are divided over negotiations with Iran, with the Bush administration resisting a new European offer that includes a proposal for a Middle East security "framework" for Iran if it gives up its nuclear activities, The New York Times reported on Saturday.
Citing diplomats from each side as well as other officials, all of whom requested anonymity, the Times reported that the Bush administration was also resisting the idea of protecting European companies from punishment by Washington if they did business with Iran, an idea put forth in the European proposal, the Times said.
The newspaper said the disagreements in the negotiations are clouding the possibility of a deal with Iran on its nuclear program at a time when tensions are increasing over Tehran's inflexibility. The diplomats also told the newspaper that Europe, the United States and Russia have not agreed on the need to impose sanctions on Iran if it continues its defiance.
Both US And European officials told the Times that the European proposals for dealing with Iran were transmitted to the United States on Thursday, and the newspaper said the proposals were being studied by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and others.
"The US Has received a European proposal but has not yet responded to it," the Times quoted a senior administration official as saying before adding that the American answer would be conveyed on Wednesday at a meeting of senior envoys in London. Also slated for discussion are sanctions if Iran continues activities believed to be part of a weapons program.
The envoys were meant to have met Friday to discuss the European ideas but disagreements on the details were said to have postponed the session until next week, the Times said. Some European officials predicted that talks may continue into the summer.
The Times said that Bush administration hard-liners are also not eager for any kind of security guarantees for Iran, including talk of a Middle East "Regional" Framework put forward by the Europeans. Citing European officials, it said the plan would include some sort of guarantee that the government would not be overthrown, through either outside attack or subversion.
And while the Europeans are persisting in the view that there will eventually have to be talks between the United States and Iran on security matters, administration officials say Washington would flatly reject any such proposal.