Bloomberg: Iran will wait another two months before replying to a European Union offer of incentives aimed at encouraging the Islamic Republic to halt its uranium enrichment program, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said. June 21 (Bloomberg) — Iran will wait another two months before replying to a European Union offer of incentives aimed at encouraging the Islamic Republic to halt its uranium enrichment program, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said.
“We will review the proposals on the basis of our legitimate right, and, God willing, we will give our opinion regarding the proposals toward the end of Mordad,” the Iranian month ending on Aug. 22, Ahmadinejad told supporters in Hamedan province today, state television showed in a live session.
This is an “awful long time” to respond, U.S. President George W. Bush said at a news conference today after a meeting with EU leaders in Vienna. “It shouldn’t take the Iranians that long to analyze a reasonable offer.”
While Iran wasn’t given a precise deadline to respond to the offer, Bush said June 9 that Iran has “weeks, not months” to decide whether to suspend verifiably its nuclear enrichment activities to avoid United Nations Security Council action.
The delay may raise tensions with the U.S. and the EU, which have accused Iran of buying time in negotiations. Alternatively, it may give Iranian leaders in favor of a compromise with the West more time to convince others, said Bernard Hourcade, head of Iran studies at France’s National Center for Scientific Research.
“What’s key is to find a durable solution. Many people in Iran are strongly opposed to any opening to the West. They would have sabotaged Ahmadinejad’s decision if he had accepted the EU offer today,” Hourcade said in a telephone interview from Paris. “If the decision is well thought out, odds will increase that a consensus may emerge.”
The UN nuclear watchdog on March 8 referred Iran to the Security Council after three years of agency inspections failed to declare Iran’s atomic work peaceful. In November 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency criticized Iran for concealing parts of its nuclear program for 18 years.
Iran has reduced cooperation with UN’s atomic agency inspectors since the offer was made, EU diplomats said last week.
Iran began a new round of uranium enrichment on June 6, the day the EU trade and economic incentives were delivered in Tehran, according to the UN nuclear watchdog.
The incentive plan was agreed on June 1 by diplomats from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the U.S., China, Russia, the U.K. and France — as well as by Germany. Each of the permanent members has a veto over the council’s resolutions.
Ahmadinejad said today Iran will agree to “talks that are on an equal basis, just and without any preconditions.”
The U.S. and the EU have said they want Iran to suspend uranium enrichment before talks about the incentive package. Iran is currently continuing with its uranium enrichment program in defiance of international pressure and a non-binding UN resolution.
Bush on June 19 threatened “actions” by the UN Security Council should Iran reject the EU-led offer.
“We hope they will accept our offer and voluntarily suspend these activities so we can work out an agreement that will bring Iran real benefits,” the U.S. president said then. “If Iran’s leaders reject our offer, it will result in actions before the Security Council, further isolation from the world and progressively stronger political and economic sanctions,” Bush said.
“I think we should not play with time,” Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said at today’s news conference with Bush in Vienna. “We discussed it for months and months. Now is the right moment for Iran to take this offer, to grab and to negotiate. This is well balanced.”
Bush repeated calls today that Iran be denied the “capacity” to make a nuclear weapon and to suspend its enrichment program so that the U.S. can join direct talks. “We hope they will see the seriousness of our intent,” Bush said.
The proposal also offered the creation of an international group to provide advanced light-water reactor technology, a U.S. official familiar with the plan said. An energy partnership was outlined, including pledges to help Iran modernize its oil and gas industries, according to the official, who asked not to be identified.
Iran says uranium enrichment is aimed at producing electricity, in compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of which it is a signatory. Iranian officials have denied U.S. allegations that they are developing weapons, in breach of the accord.
Enriched uranium can fuel an atomic reactor or form a bomb’s core. The U.S. accuses Iran of wanting to build an atomic bomb.