Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Iran denies deadline for reply to nuke proposal

Iran insisted Wednesday that it has not been given a deadline to reply to an international proposal aimed at ending a crisis over the Islamic republic's nuclear programme, AFP reported.

"In the proposal, there are no punitive measures and no time limit. When we have finished examining it and have reached a conclusion, we will announce the result," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.

"There is no deadline," he was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency. READ MORE

The proposal, hammered out by Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, was presented to Tehran by European Union foreign policy chief Javiar Solana on June 6.

It offers Iran trade, diplomatic and technology incentives in return for Tehran returning to a freeze of uranium enrichment, work which can be extended from making civilian reactor fuel to making material for the core of a nuclear weapon.

Tehran says its nuclear program is a peaceful one to generate electricity, but Washington and the EU fear it is a cover to develop atomic weapons. They are threatening UN Security Council sanctions if Iran does not cooperate.

On Monday Solana said he expects a response from Tehran this week, even though he confirmed that he had given no specific deadline to Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani when they met last week.

"But I told Mr Larijani we expect a response in a reasonable period of time," Solana said, adding that this meant about two weeks from the time they met, or "any time now... about this week".

Last Friday, US President George W. Bush also said Iran had "weeks, not months" to agree to a freeze of uranium enrichment.

"We've given the Iranians a limited period of time, you know, weeks, not months, to digest a proposal to move forward. And if they choose not to verifiably suspend their programme, then there will be action taken in the UN Security Council," Bush said.