Friday, August 25, 2006

Chirac: Iran Nuclear Package Response "Ambiguous"

Dow Jones Newswires:
French President Jacques Chirac said Friday Iran's response to an international package of incentives meant to persuade it to return to negotiations over its nuclear program was a "little ambiguous," notably on the key question of enriching uranium.

Chirac said he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had touched on the question during talks in Paris. "We are asking ourselves some questions because (the response) is a little ambiguous, notably on whether it would eventually suspend sensitive activities," Chirac said. READ MORE

Tehran Tuesday presented its long-awaited response to the package of incentives, drawn up by the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany. Few details were revealed.

Merkel also said Iran's message was missing a reference to the key demand for Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment work. "But the door is open," she said. " We want Iran to clearly recognize the offer it was presented."

The Security Council has set an Aug. 31 deadline for Iran to halt uranium enrichment or face the risk of economic and political sanctions.

France remains willing to talk with Iran ahead of the deadline, and urged Iranian leaders to take advantage of the opportunity, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei. France could seek to contact Iranian officials in the coming days to try to clear up certain aspects of their response, he said.

"We are not in a spirit of confrontation with Iran," said Mattei. "Our hand is still reaching out."

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and is aimed at generating power. But the U.S. and many of its European allies suspect it wants enriched uranium because it can also be used to make nuclear weapons.