Iran Nuclear NewsBig powers study Iran's reply to nuclear offer

Big powers study Iran’s reply to nuclear offer

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Reuters: Six world powers were studying Iran’s offer of more talks to resolve a nuclear dispute on Wednesday, but it was not clear whether Tehran’s response went far enough to avert the threat of U.N. sanctions. By Edmund Blair

TEHRAN, Aug 23 (Reuters) – Six world powers were studying Iran’s offer of more talks to resolve a nuclear dispute on Wednesday, but it was not clear whether Tehran’s response went far enough to avert the threat of U.N. sanctions.

Iran said its reply to the powers’ nuclear incentives offer contained ideas that would allow serious talks about its standoff to start straight away.

But there was no sign Tehran had agreed to a key U.N. Security Council demand that it freeze uranium enrichment by Aug. 31 or face the prospect of sanctions. Iran has called the deadline meaningless.

One EU diplomat said Iran had ruled out halting enrichment before talks “but indicated that it might be open to accept suspension in the course of negotiations”.

Other diplomats declined to confirm Iran had shown flexibility on enrichment.

The five permanent U.N. Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany, which offered Iran the incentives to stop enrichment, were tight-lipped on its response.

China merely urged Iran to consider international concerns.

“The Chinese side hopes Iran earnestly considers the concerns of the international community and takes the necessary constructive steps,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that it was “conscientiously” studying Iran’s response.

“We also hope that other parties remain patient and calm.”

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana would say only that Iran’s answer was “extensive and therefore requires a detailed and careful analysis”.

A White House spokesman said on Tuesday that U.S. President George W. Bush had yet to examine the Iranian reply.

The world’s fourth largest oil exporter, Iran says it will not abandon what it calls its right to enrich uranium for use in nuclear power stations.

Western countries fear Iran wants to master enrichment to give it the ability to make atomic bombs.

Iran had said its reply to the package of economic, security and nuclear incentives would be “multi-dimensional”, suggesting no simple yes or no.

Iran’s answer was likely to be designed to divide Security Council members Russia and China, both key trade partners of Tehran lukewarm about sanctions, from the United States, France and Britain which have backed tougher measures.

“They are betting that they can splinter the coalition and that they can carve off one or two members of the Security Council in supporting something less than suspension,” said U.S.-based non-proliferation expert Jon Wolfsthal of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“The question is can the United States convince these countries (China and Russia) to stay on board?,” he asked.

China said on Tuesday threats of force or sanction were unhelpful.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing)

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