IRAN DEFIES CALLS FOR EARLY NUCLEAR REPLY
By Parisa Hafezi and Mark John Thu Jul 6, 10:48 AM ET
Iran defied calls on Thursday for an early reply to an offer of
incentives from major powers aimed at ending a stand-off over its nuclear plans, despite growing international impatience.
The European Union is due to hold preliminary talks with Iran on Thursday and more detailed discussions next Tuesday
in which it expects a formal response to a package of technology, trade and other incentives to halt uranium enrichment.
But Iran ruled out any breakthrough at the meetings between its
chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
"The Tuesday meeting is
just for removing ambiguities. Iran will
not give its definitive answer at this meeting," an Iranian official, who requested anonymity, told Reuters.
Major powers have said they
want a reply from Tehran by a July 15 Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg at the latest. Tehran
insists it will not give its answer before August 22.
Iran postponed talks with Solana in Brussels on Wednesday in apparent anger at an exiled opposition leader's visit to the European
parliament, but added that Larijani would meet Solana for a private dinner on Thursday.
Diplomats say that as Russia and China are unlikely to back any
U.N. sanctions against Iran at this stage, there is little pressure on
Tehran to respond either at the Brussels talks or before the
G8 summit in Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Tehran
to speed up its reply on Thursday but said talk of sanctions was premature.
"To wait endlessly is counter-productive,
but it would be more counter-productive to drive this problem into a dead-end and that is why I would not speak about sanctions
at the moment," he said on an interactive webcast in Russia.
The United States has accused Iran
of having a secret program to build nuclear weapons. Iran
denies the charge, saying its nuclear program is solely for power generation.
"(If Iran is) trying to stall, it's not going to work," U.S. Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday.
The five permanent, veto-wielding
U.N. Security Council members -- the United States,
Britain, France, Russia and China -- plus Germany have offered Iran a state-of-the-art nuclear reactor with a guaranteed fuel
supply, economic benefits and support for the idea of a regional security framework if it halts uranium enrichment.
The head of the U.N. nuclear
watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei told private Turkish TV channel NTV he did not believe Iran was yet in a position to build a nuclear weapon and there was time for talk
ElBaradei, the director
general of the International Atomic Energy Agency,
said military intervention was not an option and the only lasting solution was through diplomacy.
He told CNN Turk TV that
no one questioned Iran's right to develop
nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.