Thursday, June 29, 2006

G-8 Leaders Set Deadline for Iranian Response

June 29, 2006

By HELENE COOPER and JOHN O'NEIL
MOSCOW, June 29
"nuclear iran" — Iran should give a "clear and substantive" response by next Wednesday to an international proposal meant to resolve the standoff over Tehran's nuclear program, foreign ministers from industrialized nations declared today.

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, last week said there would be no response to the proposal until late August.

American officials said in response that if Iran failed to agree to the package, which was formally presented on June 6, in "weeks, not months" they would begin the process of seeking sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.

The statement issued today at a meeting of the foreign ministers in Moscow did not explicitly make July 5 into a deadline that would trigger such action, but clearly was meant to pressure Iran into declaring whether it is interested in pursuing negotiations.

"We are disappointed in the absence of an official Iranian response to this positive proposal," the statement said. It noted that the European Union's foreign minister, Javier Solana, would be in Europe for talks on July 5, and said that "we expect to hear a clear and substantive Iran response" at that time.

The heads of states of the G-8 nations will meet in St. Petersburg on July 15.

The statement issued here by the United States, Russia, Japan and other members of the G-8 group was echoed by comments made in Beijing today. Without mentioning a specific date, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry urged Iran to respond to the package of incentives "as soon as possible," Reuters reported.

Since the proposal — from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — was formally delivered by Mr. Solana in Tehran on June 6, Iranian officials have given mixed signals. They have continued to defend their nuclear program as peaceful, and have insisted that they will never give up their right to pursue nuclear enrichment.

But they have also generally described the plan as "positive" and have not closed the door on the idea of suspending some of their nuclear enrichment work, which the proposal sets as a precondition for talks on the package.

On Monday, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared that the country had "no use" for talks with the United States. But at the same time he said that "the ground was prepared" for negotiations over its nuclear program.

And on Wednesday, Ali Larijiani, the country's top nuclear negotiator, said that the international plan contained a solution to the nuclear crisis, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Mr. Larijiani said that the details of the proposal had been turned over to expert committees for further study, the news agency said.

The details of the package have not been made public, but diplomats have said that it includes an offer of a light-water nuclear reactor to help meet Iran's energy needs and offers a chance for a discussion of regional security issues, though not an explicit guarantee of Iran's security.

The package is said to contain only inducements, not threats, but diplomats have said that Mr. Solana informed officials in Tehran that there was agreement among the six nations making the proposal to pursue sanctions if the offer is declined.

The United States had worked hard earlier this year for Security Council sanctions after Iran broke off longstanding talks with Britain, France and Germany and restarted its nuclear enrichment program. Iran had suspended all nuclear work in 2003 after admitting that it had deceived nuclear inspectors for years.

The American push for sanctions was blocked by Russia and China, which favored further negotiations. President Bush decided last month to set aside a decades-old policy of shunning talks with Iran as a way of keeping the international community united in the effort to keep Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Also today, in an article in The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a former United Nations nuclear inspector estimated that if Iran began building a large-scale enrichment facility this year it might be able to design and arm a weapon by 2009, news services reported.

The article, by David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, said that timetable means there is enough time for other nations "to pursue aggressive diplomatic options," and underscores the need to persuade Iran to "foreswear" its ability to enrich uranium.

Iran began its latest round of enrichment work on June 6, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency — the same day on which Mr. Solana delivered the international proposal.

Helene Cooper reported from Moscow for this article and John O'Neil from New York
source:new york times
posted by ali ghannadi-irannuk

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