Tehran, Iran Iran and the United States had a rare moment of agreement Tuesday, using similar language to describe "positive steps" toward an accord on a package of incentives aimed at persuading Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment.
Diplomats said the incentives include a previously undisclosed offer of some U.S. nuclear technology on top of European help in building light-water nuclear reactors. Other incentives include allowing Iran to buy spare airplane parts and support for joining the World Trade Organization.
Tehran is under intense international pressure to accept the deal in exchange for putting on hold a uranium enrichment program that the West fears could lead to the creation of nuclear weapons.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said the proposals had "positive steps" but that talks were needed to clear up ambiguities. Iran promised to study the proposals seriously, but gave no timeframe for a response.
And President Bush, using the same language, said Iran's initial response "sounds like a positive step."
"We will see if the Iranians take our offer seriously," the president said in Laredo, Texas. "The choice is theirs to make. I have said the United States will come and sit down at the table with them so long as they are willing to suspend their enrichment in a verifiable way."
One diplomat in Vienna described the U.S. offer of nuclear technology as particularly significant because it would, in effect, loosen a decades-long American embargo on giving Iran access to "dual use" technologies - equipment with both civilian and military uses.
Crucially, the deal does not demand that Iran outright give up its uranium enrichment program - only suspend it, although likely for a long time. Two earlier diplomatic initiatives by Europe and Russia crumbled over the past year because each demanded Iran scrap enrichment completely - a stumbling block because of the program's wide popularity with the Iranian public.
The latest proposal was revealed a week after Washington changed strategy on Iran and - in an apparent acknowledgment that it lacked support for sanctions against the Islamic republic - conceded to entering into direct talks with Iran under certain conditions.