Thursday, July 20, 2006

Iran says it will deliver response Aug. 22

July 20, 2006, 7:58AM



By ALI AKBAR DAREINI Associated Press Writer


"nuclear iran"-— Iran said Thursday it would formally respond on Aug. 22 to a Western package of incentives aimed at resolving the standoff over its suspect nuclear program _ the first time the Islamic republic has set a specific date for its reply.

The Supreme National Security Council, Iran's top security decision-making body, also threatened that the country would reconsider its nuclear policies if sanctions were imposed by the United Nations.

The council did not elaborate, but Iranian officials repeatedly have suggested that Tehran may withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and stop cooperating with U.N. inspectors.

"The package of incentives requires a logical time to study it ... Aug. 22 has been set for declaring (our) views," the council said in a statement read on state-run television.

"In case the path of confrontation is chosen instead of the path of dialogue ... and Iran's definite rights are threatened, then there will be no option for Iran but to reconsider its nuclear policies."

The statement came a day after Russia said the U.N. Security Council is in no rush to pressure Iran over its nuclear program, striking a more conciliatory tone than the United States as diplomats began discussing a resolution to put legal muscle behind demands that Tehran suspend uranium enrichment.

The United States and some of its allies accuse Iran of seeking to produce highly enriched uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity.

In Thursday's statement, Iran said it plans to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity through nuclear energy in the next 20 years.

The Western nations on June 6 offered Iran a package of incentives _ including advanced technology and possibly even nuclear research reactors _ if Tehran suspended enrichment.

But the frustrated powers agreed last week to send Iran back to the U.N. Security Council for possible punishment, saying Tehran had given no sign it would bargain in earnest over its nuclear ambitions.

Iran has said the incentives package was an "acceptable basis" for negotiations.

Hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad initially said Iran would respond to the package in mid-August, but the republic then pushed back its response to late August. Thursday's statement was the first time a specific date was set.

The United States has accused Iran of stalling while it continues to pursue suspect technology, but Tehran accused Washington on Thursday of putting up "obstacles."

The Iranian council said special committees in key state agencies were still studying the offer by the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany, and it invited the United States and its allies to return to the negotiating table.

It said it was "surprising" that the United States was creating obstacles for a negotiated settlement while Iran was seriously studying the offer.

"Iran is not after tension, but if others push things toward tension and create problems, then all will face problems. Iran believes dialogue is the most logical solution. It is serious in this path. We want the other side to return to the negotiating table," the statement said.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is committed to a negotiated settlement through diplomacy. The United States, by changing the path of talks toward the Security Council, is trying to create obstacles."

A senior Iranian lawmaker said Tuesday the country's parliament was preparing to debate withdrawal from the nonproliferation treaty if the U.N. Security Council adopts a resolution that would force Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment.

Withdrawal from the treaty could end all international oversight of Iran's nuclear program.

In February, Iran for the first time produced its first batch of low-enriched uranium, using a cascade of 164 centrifuges. The process of uranium enrichment can be used to generate electricity or in building a bomb, depending on the level of enrichment.

Iran has said it will never give up its right under the treaty to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel, but it has indicated it may temporarily suspend large-scale activities to ease tensions.
© 2006 The Associated Press
posted by ali ghannadi -irannuk

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