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New incentive for Iran

Bob Moon Jun 6, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: It seems counterintuitive: Offering nuclear technology to get Iran to stop working on its nuclear technology. But nothing else is working. So the US, along with China, Russia and the European Union, are trying something new. Marketplace’s Bob Moon has been looking into whether it pays to be nice.

BOB MOON: Iranian officials offered a lukewarm response, saying they see some “positive steps,” but at the same time pointing to what they call ambiguities that “need to be cleared up.” Still, the European Union’s chief foreign affairs diplomat, Javier Soldana, sounded optimistic after presenting the plan in Tehran:

JAVIER SOLANA: I think the atmosphere was very good. The government and the leaders do have a proposal presented by a group of countries. And we would like very much to continue working and seeing if we can achieve a good agreement that would be beneficial for everybody.

The upbeat tone didn’t impress Dennis Ross, a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

DENNIS ROSS: Without more stick, they won’t even take a look at the carrot.

Ross says Iran has a pattern of showing a level of interest in past negotiations, but still pushing ahead with its nuclear program.

ROSS: The only way they will ever take a look at an incentives package is if they become convinced there’s a price to be paid, and the price is sufficiently high that it’s not worth the gain of having a nuclear capability.

But at the Brookings Institution, senior fellow Ivo Dalder says he believes Iran’s behavior could well change with this new emphasis on open trade:

IVO DALDER: When we open up, when we trade, when we expose the society to the benefits of good economic relations, there is the chance that there are internal pressures within that society to say, “Let’s cooperate in ways that are acceptable to the United States and the international community, to continue those benefits.” That’s the argument for why we engage. That’s why we’ve done it with China; it’s presumably why, if we do it with Iran, it may, in fact, work.

Dalder sees few other productive options, and argues that engaging Iran economically is worth a try.

In New York, I’m Bob Moon for Marketplace.

RYSSDAL: Oil traders were relieved by today’s news out of Tehran. But only a tiny little bit. Crude prices fell one thin dime today in New York to $72.50 a barrel.

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