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Euro big 3 defy US to offer Iran nuke carrot

Brussels/Vienna, Sept. 19 (Reuters): Britain, Germany and France had defied the US last month by offering Iran the prospect of sharing technology if it stops its disputed nuclear fuel enrichment programme and accepts tougher UN inspections.

Western diplomats said a joint letter by the big three European foreign ministers, the content of which has not previously been disclosed, was delivered to Tehran in early August despite intense lobbying by Washington.

It highlighted a gulf between the administration of US President George W. Bush and even its closest European ally, Britain, on whether to engage or isolate the Islamic republic.

The Europeans urged Iran to sign, implement and ratify the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that provides for intrusive, short-notice inspections and to halt its uranium enrichment programme, which the West fears could be at the heart of a clandestine nuclear arms programme.

In return for compliance, the letter raised the prospect of cooperation on technology, without specifically pledging help with a civilian nuclear energy programme, the sources said.

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