Tuesday, September 12, 2006

U.S. Says There Is No Iran Suspension Offer

Iran has not offered to temporarily suspend its uranium enrichment program as part of an effort to launch nuclear negotiations with six major powers, despite reports it had shown flexibility, the State Department said on Tuesday. READ MORE

Indications that Tehran and the major powers might be able to compromise on a nuclear suspension emerged from weekend talks between Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, representing the six powers.

An EU diplomat said Larijani offered to consider suspending enrichment activity while the two sides discuss incentives for Iran's nuclear cooperation, which he said would take at least two months.

But State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey dismissed reports of "some alleged Iranian offer" and said: "To the best of my knowledge, there's been no Iranian proposal; there's been no change in the Iranian position, meaning they have not agreed to suspend uranium enrichment activities for any length of time that I'm aware of."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday seemed to suggest Washington might join talks with Iran if it temporarily suspends the nuclear program, and she chose not to flatly reject talk of a shorter-term enrichment freeze by Tehran.

Previously, the United States said Iran must stop nuclear enrichment-related work for a longer, indefinite period.

But Rice seemed to harden her line on Tuesday, telling reporters on a trip to Canada the major powers had set a "mandatory standard (for Iran) ... not a voluntary standard about suspension of their enrichment and reprocessing activities."

Iran has not met that standard and if it does not, "then we are going to pursue, and pursue actively, the road of sanctions within the U.N. Security Council," she said.

Casey insisted there was no contradiction in the U.S. position. "Iran needs to suspend, and suspend in a verifiable way, and then discussions (with the six major powers) can begin. That's what the secretary said yesterday, and that's where we are," he said.

"Unfortunately, what we haven't seen is any indication from the Iranian government that they would be willing to, in fact, suspend their uranium enrichment activities so that we could, in fact, move on to this positive package and proposal that's been put forward."

The United States and its partners -- Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China -- have accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons but Tehran insist its activities are aimed at producing electricity to meet growing energy needs.