Saturday, June 10, 2006

Iran given June 29 deadline to respond to anti-nuke offer

Nazila Fathi, Helene Cooper, SFGate:
Iran has less than three weeks to respond to the package of incentives offered by major powers in exchange for its suspending its enrichment of uranium, European diplomats and senior Bush administration officials said Friday.

The United States and Europe have set a deadline of June 29, when foreign ministers from the Group of 8 industrialized nations are scheduled to meet in Moscow. The deadline was not explicitly part of the package given to Iran earlier this week, but Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, conveyed it to Iranian officials in Tehran on Tuesday when he delivered the proposal, the diplomats said. READ MORE

The deadline reflects concern among the United States, Britain and France that Iran continues to enrich uranium and develop its nuclear capability even as its leadership considers the package of incentives. "We know that time is not on our side," one European diplomat said.

On July 15, President Bush and the leaders of Russia, Japan, Britain, France, Germany, Japan and Italy are to gather in St. Petersburg for the G-8 summit meeting, where Iran is expected to be high on the agenda. European diplomats said that back-and-forth between the major powers and Iran over the package could extend to the meeting, but that Iran is expected to make an initial response well before that.

Diplomats and Bush administration officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the terms of the offer had not been released officially.

"If we haven't heard anything from them" by June 29, "that would be a very bad sign, and we'd start looking at the sticks," said one European diplomat, referring to a list of penalties the major powers have agreed to consider if Iran refuses to suspend its uranium enrichment.

Iran has insisted that it will not accept limits on its right under existing treaties to enrich uranium for peaceful uses. On Friday, its chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, repeated that pledge but said Iran is ready to negotiate with the United States.

"Iran can announce today officially and explicitly that it has no problem to negotiate with America," Larijani told the student news agency ISNA.