US Says Iran Not Really Responsive on Nuclear Issue
By David Gollust
10 September 2009
The U.S. State Department said Thursday an Iranian proposal for talks with world powers was not really responsive on the key issue of Iran's nuclear ambitions. However, officials say the United States, the other permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany - the P5+1 grouping - are likely to seek follow-on talks with Tehran.
The State Department says the proposal handed to diplomats in Tehran Wednesday repeated Iran's publicly-stated assertion that it considers the nuclear issue closed.
But officials here are signaling that the P5+1 intend none-the-less to take Iran up on its offer of talks with the major powers, and test its readiness to address issues of concern including its nuclear program.
At a news briefing, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley said the Iranian document is not really responsive to concern about Tehran's nuclear intentions, but said this does not foreclose the possibility of a renewed big-power dialogue with Tehran.
"We are willing to engage Iran in direct diplomacy based on mutual respect and mutual interests and we seek a willing partner," he said. "But I think that as we consult with our P5+1 colleagues, we'll be looking to see how ready Iran is to actually engage, and we will be testing that willingness to engage in the next few weeks."
Senior diplomats of the six-power grouping held a video conference call shortly after receipt of the Iranian proposal Wednesday, and Crowley said there would be another such discussion Friday that a senior official here said would be aimed at crafting a common position for a response to Tehran.
The senior official said that while there is nothing really new in the Iranian document, the P5+1 members now at least have a reply in hand to an offer of dialogue conveyed to Tehran last April.
The major powers offered Iran a revised package of economic and political incentives to halt a uranium enrichment program seen as weapons-related, and return to talks with major powers on its nuclear intentions.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said earlier this week Iran rejects any halt to the enrichment effort which it says is part of a peaceful nuclear program, but is ready for talks on a wide-range of world issues including nuclear proliferation.
P5+1 foreign ministers are expected to discuss Iran on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York the third week of this month.
The Obama administration has indicated it will press for tougher international sanctions against Iran if it does not accept good-faith negotiations on the nuclear issue by the end of September.
Thursday in Vienna, the U.S. envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency Glyn Davies said Iran is either very near to having, or is already in possession of, enough low-enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon, if it made the decision to further enrich it to weapons-grade.
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