Sunday, July 02, 2006

Iran, EU Envoys to Discuss Nuclear Incentives Package

Dow Jones Newswires:
Top Iranian and European envoys will meet Wednesday to discuss "ambiguities" in a package of Western incentives aimed at persuading Tehran to suspend its controversial nuclear program, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said Sunday. But Hamid Reza Asefi said his government still wouldn't respond to the package before next month.

He said Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, would meet European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Wednesday, "probably in a European country."

"Solana and Larijani are in contact on a daily basis," Asefi said. READ MORE

Solana presented the package when he visited Tehran on June 6. It offers Iran a range of incentives in exchange for a long-term moratorium on uranium enrichment, a process that can produce material for nuclear generators or bombs.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said his country would take until mid-August to respond to the Western offer, prompting U.S. President George W. Bush to accuse Tehran of dragging its feet.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany want Iran to respond as early as next week, but Asefi said they have to wait until next month.

"We are serious in our study. Various committees are studying the proposals every day," Asefi said, urging the six-nation group to be patient.

"They should let us do our expert study," he added.

Asefi said no specific date could be given on when Iran would respond, but denied it was buying time.

"There is no reason to kill time. There are ambiguities that need to be addressed," he said.

The U.S. and some of its allies accuse Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to build an atomic bomb. Tehran has denied the charges, saying its nuclear program is geared only toward generating electricity.

Although details have not been made public, diplomats familiar with its contents have said the offer includes economic incentives and a provision for the United States to offer Iran some nuclear technology, lift some sanctions and join direct negotiations.

The proposal calls for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment -which can produce peaceful reactor fuel or fissile bomb material - during negotiations. And it calls for a long-term moratorium on enrichment until the international community is convinced that Tehran's nuclear aims are peaceful.

Iran has said it won't give up enrichment but indicated it may temporarily suspend large-scale activities to ease tensions.