MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
The United States and five other world powers have reached an agreement on Iran. They've Okayed a package of incentives and penalties aimed at persuading Iran to curb its nuclear program. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice finalized the deal late today with top diplomats from Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain.
NPR's Michele Keleman is traveling with the Secretary of State and joins us now. Michele, what do we know about this package that's being offered to Iran?
MICHELE KELEMAN reporting:
Well, Britain's Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, who announced it this evening, didn't give details. Basically, she just said it offers Iran two paths. She said world powers would be ready to negotiate with Iran, suspend any U.N. Security Council action and offer what she called substantial benefits if Iran suspends its enrichment related activities.
The alternative would be Security Council action. Now, her statement was short on specifics, but we do know that they've been talking for weeks now, leading up to tonight's, mainly about helping develop Iran's civil nuclear program. Offering some trade benefits, support for the World Trade Organization membership for Iran, for instance.
And then on the penalty side, a European diplomat told me today that the talk is about targeted sanctions, political and economic, which would mean perhaps visa bans, financial restrictions for Iranian leaders.
SIEGEL: Well, does the United States seem satisfied with this agreement?
KELEMAN: Well, the State Department officials here said they got what they wanted, both on the incentives and the penalty side. One official told us that if Iran doesn't take the hand being extended to it, then the Security Council will act and that its actions will have (unintelligible), that was his quote.
Another official, the main person who's been involved in these talks, Nicholas Burns, gave a brief readout on the record tonight. He said that this was the most substantive and concrete meeting that Secretary Rice has had on this issue and she's met with this particular group four times. And from what we've been told, there's been some fairly heated exchanges in the past. For instance, with Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergie Lavrov.
Officials tonight said they were satisfied with this meeting. They said it made a difference, that President Bush called Russian President Vladimir Putin this week and it also made a difference that the U.S. made this very high profile offer to join eventual talks with Iran if Iran meets those conditions.
SIEGEL: Tell us more about the Russians and the Chinese and this idea of further steps in the Security Council, penalties, as you say, target sanctions. As you understand it, have the Chinese and the Russians really signed onto that threat of a penalty?
KELEMAN: Well, it's difficult. You know, they've been arguing against sanctions for some time, but they did agree to this statement. I should say that the statement didn't use the word sanctions and they're being very careful about that tonight, saying they don't want to change the diplomacy here, that this is very, a touchy issue and that they're not using that word.
One interesting thing is that the Russians and the Chinese have been considering apparently joining multi-lateral talks. They've really pushed this issue that this should be a negotiated settlement to this and it shouldn't be an issue for the Security Council. So if they do get these talks off the ground, that's one way to avoid a Security Council debate.
And the Russians and Chinese have really managed to push this Security Council debate down the road to give the negotiating track more time.
SIEGEL: So, what's happened today is after Secretary of State Rice made the statement of U.S. policy earlier in the week, now the Russians, the Chinese, the French, the Germans and the British have signed on. They say they agree with that. What happens next?
KELEMAN: We're told that the Europeans are going to take this to the Iranians within the next few days or the next week and see what they say. You know, we were asking whether or not there's any optimism that Iran will accept this and so far, U.S. officials say that's really hard to say. But they've been playing down the statement by Iran's Foreign Minister, who said that he'd agreed to negotiate with the U.S. involved, but only without preconditions. The U.S. is sort of not ready to take that as an answer, neither are the Europeans. So they're gonna give this some time, perhaps a few weeks.
SIEGEL: Okay, thank you, Michele.
KELEMAN: You're welcome.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Michele Keleman in Vienna.