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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Submits Formal Response to Nuclear Proposal

22 August 2006

Iran responded to a package of international incentives on nuclear technology Tuesday. No details were immediately available, but Iranian officials have already said Iran will not suspend uranium enrichment, which is the key demand of the permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany. As VOA correspondent Gary Thomas reports from London, the stage now appears set for a showdown on the issue in the U.N. Security Council.

Iranian top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani delivered his government's response in a meeting in Tehran with envoys from Britain, China, Russia, France, Germany, and Switzerland, which represents U.S. interests in Iran.

Larijani said Iran is ready for what he termed "serious negotiations" over its nuclear program, but gave no details of the response to the offer. He made no mention of the key Western demand that Iran suspend uranium enrichment before any resumption of negotiations.

However, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Monday Iran will continue its nuclear work and will not bow to pressure.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said Tuesday that if Iran rejects the demand that it suspend uranium enrichment, the United States will push for the Security Council to impose economic sanctions on Iran.

"They can either take up the very generous offer that the five permanent [Security Council] members and Germany have extended to them, and if they do there's the possibility of a different relationship with the United States and others," he said. "But if they don't, we've also made it clear that their unwillingness to give up their pursuit of nuclear weapons will result in our efforts in the Security Council to obtain economic sanctions against them."

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany offered the package of incentives to persuade Iran to give up what they believe is a bid to make nuclear weapons. Iran rejects that charge, saying it only seeks peaceful nuclear energy.

Mark Fitzgerald, a specialist on nuclear proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, says it appears that Iran is trying to restart negotiations without suspending uranium enrichment. But, he says, the West will not discuss the issue with Iran without the suspension.

"Iran will be seeking negotiations, but without the condition of stopping enrichment," he said. "So from the point of view of the other players, no, there is no wiggle room [to negotiate]. If Iran does not agree to the suspension of uranium enrichment, there's no point in beginning the negotiations."

Analysts say, however, that there are still deep divisions between the Europeans on one side and Russia and China on the other about the strength of any U.N.-imposed sanctions.

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