Reuters: The European Union will push Iran on Tuesday to respond to an offer of incentives to halt uranium enrichment in a new encounter just days before a key G8 deadline, but Tehran insists it wants more time. By Mark John
BRUSSELS, July 11 (Reuters) – The European Union will push Iran on Tuesday to respond to an offer of incentives to halt uranium enrichment in a new encounter just days before a key G8 deadline, but Tehran insists it wants more time.
The West has urged Iran to accept a package of technology, economic and political sweeteners by Saturday’s meeting of Group of Eight major power nations in St Petersburg in Russia, or face possible U.N. Security Council action.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Washington it was time Iran gave an “authoritative answer” to the package, aimed at curbing an Iranian nuclear programme which the United States suspects is aimed at acquiring the atom bomb.
But diplomats say Russia and China, both veto-holders in the Security Council, are wary about imposing sanctions on Tehran and so acknowledge there is little pressure on Iran to give an early reply.
“Tomorrow, we will not give a definite answer,” an Iranian official said on Monday of the talks in Brussels between Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
QUESTIONS AND AMBIGUITIES
“We will only discuss questions and ambiguities regarding the offer,” the official said, adding that a final response was “very unlikely” even if Solana answered all their queries on the package presented five weeks ago.
Iran insists it will give an answer by Aug. 22 and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said at the weekend Solana had not been able to answer all Iran’s questions in preliminary, two-hour discussions last Thursday.
The EU, which had described that meeting as a good start, brushed off the remarks and said it still wanted a “substantive response” from Larijani on Tuesday.
“We will continue to discuss with Larijani, with the aim of getting from Iran their response to the proposals,” said Solana spokeswoman Cristina Gallach.
The talks come a day before a meeting in Paris of foreign ministers from the five permanent members of the Security Council — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — and Germany, the six powers behind the incentives offer.
The package includes a state-of-the-art nuclear reactor with a guaranteed fuel supply, economic benefits and other incentives if it halts uranium enrichment.
Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil exporter, rejects charges it seeks a nuclear weapon and argues it is solely interested in electricity generation.
Despite Tehran’s insistence it wants more time to study the offer, oil dropped nearly 50 cents to below $74 a barrel on Monday on expectations of progress this week.