VIENNA -- European nations yesterday weighed adding a light-water reactor to a package of incentives meant to persuade Tehran to give up uranium enrichment -- or face the threat of UN Security Council sanctions.
Senior diplomats and European Union officials said the plans were being discussed by France, Britain, and Germany as part of a proposal to be presented to representatives of the five permanent UN Security Council members at a meeting in London. The diplomats and EU government officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the information.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said a ''package" was being prepared for Iran's consideration that would give Tehran a choice between intransigence and a ''pathway of cooperation." He declined to say whether a light-water reactor would be offered.
McCormack said Tehran would be required to halt its program of enriching and reprocessing uranium on Iranian soil, saying the United States and others ''do not want the Iranian regime to have the ability to master those critical pathways to a nuclear weapon."
Hojjatollah Soltani, second secretary of the Iranian Embassy in Venezuela, said such a proposal would be acceptable ''only if they recognize our right to [use] nuclear technology" -- including uranium enrichment.
Those in Europe who spoke to the Associated Press emphasized the possible offer was tentative, complex, and depended on demonstrated good nuclear behavior by Iran over a protracted time.
''It's much more complicated than simply saying the EU is going to offer light-water reactors" to Iran, said one European government official, without elaborating.
A French official suggested everything depended on Iran's readiness to discuss details in new negotiations between the Europeans and Tehran, and said it could take years to build any such facility.
''We are not going to offer them a finished reactor," he said. ''For the moment, one can only identify large general categories [of cooperation] and only if they say that they are interested . . . can we start to discuss the details. Otherwise, we are putting the cart before the horse."
The London meeting of Security Council representatives was originally scheduled for Friday.
But officials from several different nations said yesterday that it might be delayed to next week to allow the United States, Russia, and China to work out their differences.
A light-water reactor is considered less likely to be misused for nuclear proliferation than the heavy water facility Iran is building at the city of Arak, which -- once completed by early 2009 -- will produce plutonium waste.
Still, light-water reactors are not proliferation-proof, because they are fueled by enriched uranium, which can be processed to make highly enriched ''weapons-grade" material for nuclear warheads.
Iran recently managed to produce what is believed to be its first batch of low-enriched uranium.