By WILLIAM J. KOLE
VIENNA, Austria - An Iranian exile group bristled Friday at a European offer of incentives aimed at getting the Tehran regime to stop uranium enrichment, saying it included a promise that the EU would continue viewing one of its key members as a terrorist organization.
In a statement made available to The Associated Press, the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran said the text - formally presented to Iran this week by Britain, France and Germany - "makes a mockery of the war against terrorism."
European negotiators included a reference to the Iranian resistance group MEK in their last-chance offer of a trade deal and peaceful civilian nuclear technology to entice Iran to give up enrichment and avoid the looming threat of U.N. sanctions.
The document presented to an Iranian delegation in Vienna on Thursday included a pledge that the Europeans "would continue to regard the MEK as a terrorist organization." The MEK, the main group in the resistance council's coalition, also is on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations.
The council called the continued terrorist designation "shameful," and it accused the Iranian authorities of using the EU's characterization as a pretext "to torture, execute and suppress dissidents."
The council urged the international community to stop blacklisting the group, which it contends will "only lead to the rise in human rights abuses in Iran and the increasing role of the mullahs in international terrorism."
Last month, the National Council of Resistance of Iran claimed to have uncovered more evidence that Iran's nuclear activities are broader than it has publicly admitted. It alleged that Iran has a hidden uranium processing plant near Bandar Abbas, a major industrial port in southern Iran that is home to a missile production facility, an oil refinery and a large thermal power plant.
Two years ago, the Iranian opposition was the first to make public that Iran was running a secret uranium enrichment program.
Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and geared solely toward generating electricity. The United States contends it is covertly trying to build atomic weaponry and is pressing to report it to the U.N. Security Council, which has the authority to impose punishing sanctions.
Diplomats involved in the incentives package could not immediately be reached for comment Friday on the council's protest.
European Union officials in Brussels, Belgium, said Friday they were pleased with the way the talks with Iran went and described the proposal under discussion as an EU initiative. They said there will be another meeting in Vienna next week on the package.
On Thursday, Iranian delegates said they would take the proposal back to Tehran for study.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors will deliver a fresh assessment of Iran's cooperation with the nuclear agency on Nov. 25.
Britain, France and Germany have said they likely will back Washington's call to report Iran to the Security Council as defiant and noncompliant at that meeting if Tehran does not agree to the incentives, suspend uranium enrichment and agree to IAEA verification that it has done so.
Iran has resumed testing, assembling and making centrifuges used to enrich uranium, heightening U.S. concerns that its sole purpose is to build a bomb.