Iran reported ready for 'serious negotiations' on nuclear program
August 22, 2006; 11:14 a.m.
TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's top nuclear negotiator Tuesday delivered his country's response to a package of incentives offered by the U.N. Security Council's five permanent members plus Germany in exchange for halting its uranium enrichment program, Iranian media reported.
Iranian TV reported that the response includes an offer to return immediately to serious negotiations on Iran's nuclear program in the coming days, but did not address the sticking point of whether the Islamic republic will put the brakes on its nuclear activities first.
The Associated Press reported that officials said Tehran offered a "new formula" to resolve the dispute. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
"Iran has provided a comprehensive response to everything said in the Western package. In addition, Iran, in its formal response, has asked some questions to be answered," one official said, without elaborating, according to AP.
Ali Larijani, the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, delivered the message to the ambassadors of Germany, France, Britain, Russia, China and Switzerland at a meeting in Tehran, according to Iran's state-run news agency IRNA.
Switzerland, which is not a member of the U.N. Security Council, is representing the interests of the United States because Washington does not have diplomatic relations with Iran.
The incentives package was submitted to Tehran in June.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton called it "a significant moment" and said the United States would "study the Iranian response carefully."
If the response "doesn't meet the terms set" by the six nations, the Security Council will proceed with levying economic sanctions against Iran, Bolton said.
"If on the other hand the Iranians have chosen the path of cooperation ... then a different relationship with the United States and the rest of the world is possible," he said.
Iran still has until the end of the month to formally respond to a U.N. resolution demanding it stop its nuclear program and allow full inspections, or face a move to impose economic sanctions.
Iranian officials in recent days have already rejected the U.N. resolution, saying they are within their rights to build a nuclear energy program despite fears from the West that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.
Bolton said the U.S. and the rest of the U.N. Security Council will not respond to the "rhetoric" and will wait for Iran's formal response.
While the United States supports sanctions, other permanent members of the Security Council -- who hold veto power -- are not fully on board. Russia and China have voiced opposition to such action.
Iran insists its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only, and rejects U.N. demands to stop its work before returning to talks on its nuclear program.
Talks with European negotiators stalled earlier this year when Iran ended its voluntary cooperation with the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, halting snap inspections of its nuclear facilities and beginning small-scale uranium enrichment.
The U.N. Security Council voted July 31 to give Iran until the end of August to freeze its uranium enrichment program or possibly face economic sanctions.
Iran also plans to continue a series of military tests, which it began Saturday.
On Sunday, Iranian forces test-fired Iranian-made Saeqeh (Thunderbolt) missiles and surface-to-water missiles in southwestern Khuzestan Province, which adjoins Iraq, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kiumars Heidari told IRNA.
The exercises will be conducted in 16 provinces in southern, southwestern and western parts of the country during the coming days, IRNA reported.