Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Iran hands over nuclear response

Edmund Blair, Reuters:
Iran on Tuesday handed over its reply to an incentives package by world powers aimed at allaying Western fears that Tehran seeks to build atomic bombs, Iran's state-run Arabic-language Al-Alam television reported.

Ali Larijani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, gave the response to foreign envoys representing the six co-sponsors of the package in Tehran.

Al-Alam gave no details of the reply which Iranian officials have already indicated is unlikely to address a key demand by the U.N. Security Council that it suspend uranium enrichment work by an August 31 deadline or face the threat of sanctions.

"I expect a very ambiguous answer," said one Western diplomat. READ MORE

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

Refusing to suspend the work, which Iran says is aimed only at generating electricity but which the West sees as a disguised bid for atom bombs, would be tantamount to rejecting the package of incentives offered in return, Western diplomats say.

A rebuff would not yet trigger immediate action by the U.N. Security Council, which passed a resolution on July 31 giving Iran a month to halt enrichment or risk sanctions.

"We are not treating (Tuesday) as a deadline because it is not the Security Council deadline," one Western diplomat said. "If Iran flatly refuses to suspend enrichment, then there will, fairly soon, be more talks in the Security Council."


Security Council permanent members Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States plus Germany have offered Iran a range of economic, political and security incentives if it suspends atomic work that could be used to make nuclear bombs.

Iran has said its reply to the offer will be "multi-dimensional," suggesting no simple 'yes' or 'no'. Officials have also said Iran wants more talks to resolve the dispute.

"Confidence building is a two-way road, trust is always a two-way road," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in response to questions after a lecture in Pretoria, South Africa.

"Based on negotiations, there is a possibility for a comprehensive solution to this matter," he said.

A "multi-dimensional" reply, say diplomats, could lay bare divisions in the Security Council where the United States, France and Britain back sanctions but Russia and China, the other two veto-wielding members and both key trade partners of Iran, oppose them.

"If they reject suspension, that's rejection of the package (for Western capitals)," said another Western diplomat. He added that Russia and China might take a different view.

"If they said suspension was negotiable, there would be pressure on (the six powers) to think about it."