EU is prepared to support Iran's civilian nuclear program,official says

"We are prepared to work on a cooperation package and support Iran's development of a proliferation-proof civilian nuclear program," said Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

Plassnik was speaking after a meeting of EU foreign ministers, where a package of enhanced incentives to Iran was being considered in order to try to persuade Tehran to halt some nuclear work that can be used both to make fuel for power plants or the core of atomic warheads.

She said the EU's new plan would contain three elements - economic assistance, political cooperation and backing for a civilian nuclear power program.

The EU also remained deeply concerned by Iran's failure to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, Plassnik said.

The foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels came a day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected any incentive package that would require Tehran to stop enriching uranium. Many Western countries fear Iran could use enrichment technology to pursue a weapons program, while Iran insists it is only to produce fuel for nuclear power plants.

The EU said in a statement Monday that it fully supports a possible U.N. Security Council resolution that would make mandatory Iran's compliance with demands to halt enrichment activities and to suspend construction of a heavy water research reactor that could be the source of plutonium used in nuclear devices.

Iran already rejected a package of economic and political incentives offered by the EU last August in return for a permanent end to uranium enrichment, but EU governments have continued to offer sweeteners, as well as pushing at the United Nations for measures that could lead to sanctions if it refuses.

EU officials have said a final proposal could be hammered out in time for a meeting of nonproliferation officials from the five permanent U.N. Security Council nations next Friday in London.

After Monday's talks in Brussels EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said that Iran had to put a "complete stop" to uranium enrichment activities, the AP reports.

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