European Union (EU) foreign ministers gathered in Brussels on Monday to discuss a new package of incentives to be offered to Iran aimed at persuading it to halt its nuclear programs.
In a two-day meeting, foreign ministers of the 25-nation bloc will review a report on the Iran issue drafted by Britain, France and Germany, EU Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner told reporters on Monday.
The ministers will also be briefed on the progress made at a meeting held in New York last week where foreign ministers of the EU-3, China, Russia and the United States discussed Iran's nuclear activities, Ferrero-Waldner said.
Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Defense Policy, said on Monday that the EU ministers would try to come up with "bold" proposals to end the international crisis over Iran's nuclear program.
"It will be a generous package, a bold package that will contain issues related to nuclear, economic matters and maybe if necessary security matters," he said prior to the ministerial meeting.
The EU is expected to encourage Iran to import the uranium needed for civil nuclear power stations, and Tehran will be offered trade perks and closer political ties with the EU in return for United Nations supervision of the country's nuclear program.
"We are preparing a package (so) that it will be difficult for them to say no if what they really want is energy," Solana said.
Ferrero-Waldner admitted that the ministers would have "a very difficult discussion" on Iran and she "would not preempt" the talks by discussing details of the anticipated proposals to the Central Asian state.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday rejected any trade-offs. "They want to offer us things they call incentives in return for renouncing our rights," he said.
"Any offer which requires us to halt our peaceful nuclear activities will be invalid," Ahmadinejad said, adding that he was "surprised that a group of people hold meetings without us being present there and make decisions for us."
As a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran has the right to build a civilian nuclear program, but it must submit to inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei has backed the EU move as "a positive thing", saying he hopes the package will be "comprehensive " and "bold" and would encourage Iran to come back to the negotiating table.
Tehran insists its nuclear activities are conducted for peaceful purposes, but the West fears that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. The United States is seeking sanctions against Tehran from the UN Security Council but has failed to win support for the move.
Negotiators from the UN Security Council's five permanent members, and Germany, will meet in London on May 19 to discuss the Iran issue.