Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Iran Reply May Come Sooner

The Guardian:
Iran's foreign minister has indicated that his country may respond before mid-July to an international package aimed at resolving a standoff over its nuclear program, a German magazine reported Wednesday. READ MORE

Iran received the proposals June 6, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the government will not respond officially until at least mid-August. The United States and Europe are pressing for a quicker reply.

The long period of deliberations suggests internal divisions within Iran's leadership over the proposals, which entail major concessions from Washington and a difficult compromise by Tehran.

Pressed for an indication on when the West may hear from Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told German weekly Stern ``if everyone maintains good will, talks could begin soon.''

Mottaki was asked whether that might happen before the summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations, which starts July 15 in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was quoted as replying: ``Yes - if we clear up some open questions before then.''

Mottaki also insisted that ``we did not agree on any date for an answer with (Javier) Solana,'' the European Union foreign policy chief who presented the package to Iran.

He noted that it had taken other countries ``months to put together the package.''

``In our country, there are various views, worries and doubts - naturally we need a while to react,'' he was quoted as saying.

The offer was drawn up by the U.N. Security Council's five permanent members and Germany.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said Tuesday that Washington as waiting for a ``consistent, official'' response.

The package seeks to persuade Iran to suspend uranium enrichment in return for incentives including a U.S. offer to provide Iran with peaceful nuclear technology, lift some sanctions and join direct negotiations with Tehran.

In Wednesday's interview, Mottaki repeated Iran's long-standing insistence that ``our nuclear activities are peaceful - we are not seeking nuclear weapons.''

In New York, meanwhile, Mottaki told a U.N. conference on the illicit trade of small arms that Iran's priority will be to fight the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, especially what he called the threat posed by Israel.

He said Iran wants to promote peace and security ``on the basis of justice and free from any and all discriminatory and double-standard considerations.''

``Fighting proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and combating the threats posed by those possessing those weapons, particularly the Zionist regime, will always remain our greater goal,'' he said.