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Europe

World Powers to Make Iran New Offer Over Nuclear Program

The UN Security Council's five permanent members and Germany agreed on a new carrot to offer Tehran. Also on Friday, May 2, the Mid-East Quartet urged Arab states to help Palestinians and Israel to halt settlements.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaks at a ceremony in Iran's nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz

A nuclear Iran is not want the West wants

Six key world powers agreed Friday to make a new offer to Iran over its disputed nuclear program, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said after talks Friday.

"I am glad to say that we have got agreement on an offer that will be made to the government of Iran," Miliband said, after discussions with his counterparts from the United States, Germany, France, Russia and China.

Researcher in nuclear facility in Iran

So far, Iran has insisted on continuing its nuclear program

In a brief statement, Miliband added that the powers had "reviewed and updated" an offer made to Iran in June 2006, but that the contents of the new proposal would only be disclosed to Iran.

"We will be transmitting that offer, we won't be revealing details except to the government of Iran and we very much hope that they will recognize the seriousness and the severity with which we have approached this issue and that they will respond in a timely manner to the suggestions we are making."

He said the proposal was designed to show Tehran "the benefits of cooperating with the international community."

Iran insists that its nuclear program is meant purely for civilian use although many in the West fear Tehran's goal is to develop nuclear weapons.

Keeping promises

Urging both Israelis and Palestinians to make "every effort" to reach agreement on a Palestinian state by the end of this year, the four powers called on donor states to come good on promises to the Palestinians made at a Paris conference in December 2007.

"The Quartet [the UN, the US, the EU and Russia] encouraged the Arab states to fulfill both their political and financial roles in support of the Annapolis process," read the statement.

Part of the fence between Israel and the Palestinian territories

Good fences make good neighbors?

US sources have alleged that so far, approximately one fifth of the funds promised by Arab league members last year have been paid.

The Quartet mediating in the Middle East peace process also called on Israel to freeze the construction of further settlements in the West Bank, and voiced concern over the Gaza Strip due to an Israeli blockade preventing essential services to get through.

"Israel should freeze all settlement activity including natural growth, and dismantle outposts erected since March 2001," they said, in the statement quoted by UN chief Ban Ki-moon at a news conference.

"The Quartet called for continued emergency and humanitarian assistance and the provision of essential services to Gaza without obstruction," the statement added.

Humanitarian crisis

Shortages of fuel and basic goods have been undermining the Gaza Strip's economy since Israeli restrictions were imposed after Hamas took control in June 2007.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who now heads the Quartet as its international envoy, described the situation in Gaza as "terrible."

In the run-up to the London talks, aid agencies had urged the Quartet to use the meeting to press Israel to end its blockade of Gaza, and to "to end its complacency by putting the highest diplomatic pressure on the Israeli government to lift the blockade on Gaza."

Warning of "an impending humanitarian crisis," they added that the Israeli stranglehold on the sliver of land "has made life for ordinary people intolerable" and made it near impossible for aid agencies to work there.

Breakthrough coming?

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, right, meets with Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair

Tony Blair with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak

Speaking in London, Blair said he believed a breakthrough in Palestinian and Israeli relations was real possibility.

"The reason why I remain….not merely determined but also believe that we can achieve a breakthrough is that there is a focus now both on improving the Palestinian security capability and on getting economic and social development going."

Despite the "difficult situation" in Gaza it should be possible to end the current deadlock, he maintained.

"There is a different and better way through. That is for the terror attacks and the rocket attacks and the smuggling of weapons to stop, for the action therefore by Israel also to stop and for a progressive lifting of the restrictions and the opening of the border," said Blair.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice echoed the sentiment. "It is hard work, it is labor intensive and it is time consuming, but I believe they do have a chance to get an agreement by the end of the year, but that is what we are going to work for every day," she said.

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