AFP: EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana urged Iran on Saturday to respond positively to a new offer on ending a six-year standoff over its nuclear drive, even after Tehran rejected a key condition.
TEHRAN (AFP) — EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana urged Iran on Saturday to respond positively to a new offer on ending a six-year standoff over its nuclear drive, even after Tehran rejected a key condition.
"I hope that the answer will be soon and positive," he told a press conference at the end of a mission to Tehran.
Solana, who held talks with Iranian officials, stressed the need to restore trust in "the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme."
He said the offer drawn up by world powers including the United States was "full of opportunities for Iran" and hoped it would be the "starting point for the real negotiations."
Asked if Iran's suspension of uranium enrichment was a condition for the offer to go up for discussion, he said: "I do not have to repeat the condition required for Iran to enter full negotiation …
"We continue to ask for a suspension during the time of negotiations and we will see the outcome of negotiations. The negotiations will take months," the EU envoy said.
"The fact that we are here together in Iran today shows how seriously we regard the problem … I think we are in front of a win-win situation."
Solana reiterated that "we fully recognise Iran's rights to nuclear energy for peaceful purpose," adding that "we want to have a fully normalised relationship in all the fields, in particular the nuclear field."
The package drawn up by six world powers offers Iran economic and trade incentives in a bid to resolve a crisis that has raised fears of regional conflict, pushed up oil prices and seen Iran hit by UN sanctions.
Solana presented the offer during talks with Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, his spokeswoman said in a statement.
But just hours into Solana's visit, Iran's government spokesman rejected a demand that Tehran suspends uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to make a nuclear bomb.
"Iran's stance is clear. The precondition of a halt and suspension of nuclear activities cannot be brought up," Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters.
"If it exists (a demand for a suspension of enrichment) it cannot be considered at all. If the issue of suspension is relied upon, the (nuclear) issue will not change."
Expectations of a breakthrough had already been low, especially after repeated vows by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Tehran would never back down.
US President George W. Bush said Elham's comments amounted to an outright rejection of the package.
"I am disappointed that the leaders rejected this generous offer out of hand," he said after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. "It is an indication to the Iranian people that their leadership is willing to isolate them further."
Solana himself had downplayed expectations before leaving for Iran, warning not to expect "miracles" despite what he described as a "generous" offer.
Mottaki indicated the Iranian response would depend on how the West receives Iran's own package put forward last month offering solutions to a string of world problems.
That package suggests the creation of consortiums to enrich uranium around the world, "including in Iran."
"The response of Iran to the package of the 5+1 world powers will be given taking into account a constructive and logical response of the world powers to Iran's own package," Mottaki said after talks with Solana.
Elham said Iran will make its decision on the package "after a precise examination."
The West wants Iran to halt enrichment over fears it could use the process to make an atomic bomb but Tehran insists it has every right to enrich uranium to manufacture fuel for future atomic power plants.
The price of failure in the talks could be high, with the West warning that Tehran faces more sanctions from the United Nations and European Union if it does not freeze enrichment.
The United States has also never ruled out military action and Bush warned this week that "all options" were still open.
Iran, OPEC's number two producer, vehemently rejects Western allegations it is seeking nuclear weapons, saying it wants only electricity for a growing population whose fossil fuels will eventually run out.
In the offer, details of which have yet to be made public, the major powers recognise Iran's right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in line with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
But it also calls on Iran to comply with four UN Security Council resolutions which call for an enrichment freeze.
The proposal is a "refreshed" version of an offer presented by Solana in June 2006 which offered to help Iran develop "more modern" technologies and to supply Tehran with enriched uranium for civil purposes.
Iran rejected that offer and diplomats have said the new proposal is not radically different.