Reuters: U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Thursday that Iran’s foreign minister had told him Tehran was seriously considering an offer of incentives if it ends sensitive nuclear activities. By Richard Waddington
GENEVA (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Thursday that Iran’s foreign minister had told him Tehran was seriously considering an offer of incentives if it ends sensitive nuclear activities.
The United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany have presented Iran with a deal, including access to advanced civilian nuclear technology, but say Tehran must suspend enrichment before any discussions can start.
“They are considering the package very, very seriously,” Annan told a news conference in Geneva after meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.
The West believes Iran wants to make highly enriched uranium that could be used in atomic bombs. Tehran says it only wants to make low-level enriched fuel used in nuclear power stations.
As pressure developed on Iran to respond to the package quickly, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he expected to meet Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator again, probably next week, to explain details of the offer.
An Iranian official said the meeting would take place in the next two weeks and would give Tehran the chance to discuss what it has called “ambiguities” in the proposals.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday that Tehran would reply to the EU proposal by August 22, prompting President Bush to say that “seems like an awfully long time” to consider a plan Solana delivered to Iran on June 6.
The White House national security adviser noted to reporters in Budapest there were Group of Eight foreign ministers’ talks next week and a summit of leaders in mid-July in Russia.
“It would be helpful and useful if we could get a response and know where the Iranians are before those meetings. It would advance the negotiating process,” Stephen Hadley said.
In New York, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton was asked what would happen if Iran rejected the offer.
“I think we’ve made it clear that if the Iranians don’t choose the path that has been presented to them, the alternative path is one of increasing isolation and we will be prepared to move very quickly in the Security Council,” he said
Annan said he did not think that any answer would come before the G8 meets in St Petersburg July 15-17.
Hadley said Iran was sending a confusing message with many voices speaking publicly and privately and Washington would like the formal Iranian response to come from chief negotiator Ali Larijani to Solana.
“It ought to come through the same channel through which the offer was made,” Hadley said. “We don’t see why it takes a long time to respond … So obviously we think, weeks not months, we’re into weeks, we ought to get a response soon.”
An EU official said Solana was willing to go to Tehran or meet Larijani elsewhere to provide further explanation of the proposed political, economic and technological incentives, conditional on Iran suspending uranium enrichment and related activities, but this would not involve negotiations.
In Tehran, Iranian officials said they would welcome a meeting with the EU. Larijani has said the issue of enrichment was one point that needed clarification.
Senior Western diplomats in Tehran said talks could help clear up any questions Iran has, but could not be used to reopen the terms. “The offer itself was a way of agreeing a basis to get back into negotiations, not for negotiation itself,” said a senior Western diplomat, who asked for anonymity.
Annan did not say if he had received any sign from Mottaki about whether Iran was prepared to at least suspend enrichment ahead of the talks, a condition laid down by the six powers.
“Their point of view is that they are coming to the table without preconditions and that everything can be discussed at the table and that I presume includes enrichment,” he said.