Iran Ready for ‘Serious’ Nuke Talks

Daily News Article   —   Posted on August 23, 2006

(by David R.
– Iran said yesterday that
it was ready for “serious negotiations” over its disputed nuclear programs, but
showed no sign it accepted the Bush administration’s bottom-line demand to halt
all uranium enrichment before any talks can begin.
United States and its allies were still studying Tehran’s long-awaited response
to an incentives package designed to halt what many think is a drive by the
Islamic republic to acquire nuclear weapons.
    The Iranian
reply, hand-delivered by top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani in Tehran
yesterday, sets up a potential confrontation at the U.N. Security Council, where
the United States is expected to press its reluctant partners for fresh
sanctions against Tehran. Russia, China and European Union powers France,
Germany and Britain are working with the United States on the Iran crisis.

    White House spokeswoman Dana Perino declined comment on
the details of the Iranian response, which had not been released as of last
night. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reportedly has interrupted a vacation
to monitor the negotiations.
    EU foreign policy chief
Javier Solana said the detailed Iranian note deserved “detailed and careful
analysis,” but European diplomats briefed on the reply and Iran’s semi-official
Fars news agency said Tehran had rejected an enrichment freeze as a precondition
for starting the talks.
    Despite Mr. Larijani’s proposal
for further talks, one top U.S. nuclear specialist said the Iranian offer was
clearly a rejection of the U.S. stand.
    “The bottom line
is that the one thing we required Iran to do — suspend uranium-enrichment
programs now — is the one thing the Iranians say they won’t do,” said Jon
Wolfsthal, nonproliferation fellow at the Center for Strategic and International
    “Anything that wasn’t an absolute ‘yes’
constitutes a ‘no,’ and the question now becomes: Where does the United States
go from here and can it bring its partners along,” he added.

    Iran insists its nuclear programs are for peaceful
civilian uses, but the United States and its European allies say it has run a
secret military nuclear program for nearly two decades. With the Bush
administration’s acquiescence, the European Union in June offered Iran a package
of trade, security and diplomatic concessions — including direct U.S.-Iranian
talks — in exchange for a freeze on uranium enrichment.
The Security Council last month set a deadline of Aug. 31 for Iran to give a
final response to the package. John R. Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United
Nations, called the offer “very generous,” and said Washington was prepared to
press for new sanctions if Iran does not accept the enrichment freeze.

    “I think we will be prepared to move to submit elements
of a resolution to the [Security Council] very quickly,” he told reporters in
New York. “It really is a test for the council, and we’ll see how it responds.”

    But Mr. Wolfsthal and others said the administration
likely will face resistance from Russia and China for harsher penalties. Both
have extensive energy and economic ties with Iran, and both could argue that
Tehran’s qualified response yesterday is enough to justify more talks.

    In Beijing today, China’s foreign ministry urged Iran to
consider international concerns over its nuclear program and be constructive,
but added all sides should remain calm.
    The foreign
ministry said it had received Iran’s response to a package of proposals to
resolve the nuclear standoff with the West and was “conscientiously” studying
    “The Chinese side hopes Iran earnestly considers the
concerns of the international community, and takes the necessary constructive
steps,” the ministry said in a faxed statement.
Iranian officials, including supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have sent
signals in recent days that they would not accept as a pre-condition the
uranium-enrichment suspension — a critical step in producing fuel both for
nuclear power and nuclear bombs. They also have questioned promises in the
proposal of foreign offers to build nuclear power plants inside Iran.

    Iranian officials once again mixed defiance with
conciliation in trying to head off new U.N. sanctions, but they also appeared to
think recent difficulties in Iraq and Lebanon for the United States and its
allies have only strengthened Tehran’s hand.
    “We are not
in an unfavorable position, since today everyone is aware of the ineffectiveness
of the Security Council,” Ali Akbar Velayati, Ayatollah Khamenei’s top foreign
policy adviser, said in a newspaper interview in Tehran.
Iranian officials offered no details of the response, but it appeared geared at
enticing those countries into further negotiations by offering a broad set of
proposals vague enough to hold out hope of progress in resolving the standoff.

    If the Iranians leave the door open to halting enrichment
as talks progress, that would drive a wedge in the Security Council between the
Americans, British and French on one side and the Russians and Chinese on the
    -This article is based in part on wire service

2006 News World Communications, Inc.
  Reprinted with
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Iran's 20
year secret nuclear program was discovered in 2002.  Iran continues to
insist that its program is for fuel purposes only, but it has been
working on uranium enrichment which is used to make nuclear bombs. 
Under the United Nation's NPT (Non
Proliferation Treaty) countries are not allowed to make nuclear weapons
(except those that had weapons when the treaty was signed). The
U.S. succeeded in getting the UN's IAEA (International
Atomic Energy Agency) to refer Iran to the UN Security Council with the
hope that if Iran does not stop their work, the Security Council will
impose sanctions on Iran and cause them to comply with the NPT.