Iran responds to world powers' nuclear offer
Iran responded yesterday to an incentives package offered by six world powers aimed at resolving a stand-off over Tehran's disputed nuclear ambitions, the official Irna news agency said.
The agency quoted a senior source at Iran's Supreme National Security Council as saying the response was handed to European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, but did not give any details about its content.
A spokeswoman for the EU's Javier Solana later confirmed that the response had been delivered yesterday evening in a letter to the European Union's foreign policy chief and to the foreign ministers of the six countries that submitted the offer. She gave no details of the letter. The spokeswoman, Cristina Gallach, had earlier said Solana had held "positive" talks with the Iranian side.
The offer of economic and other incentives proposed by the six-the United States, China, Russia, Germany, Britain and France - was presented to Iran by Solana last month to try to persuade Iran to halt work they fear is aimed at making bombs.
The Islamic Republic has said it is willing to enter talks about the offer but has repeatedly rejected demands to halt uranium enrichment, which can have both civilian and military uses.
The long-running dispute over Iran's nuclear programme has sparked fears of a military confrontation and has helped send oil prices to record highs on global markets.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran's response to Solana and the (six powers') foreign ministers was submitted to Solana by Iran's ambassador to Brussels," the source told Irna, adding it was signed by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.
State radio earlier said Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, told Solana by telephone Iran would respond to a letter from the six world powers later on Friday. The two men agreed to hold more talks later this month, the radio said.
The letter Jalili referred to formed part of the incentives package presented by Solana. His comments did not make clear how detailed Iran's response would be.
The incentives package says formal negotiations on the offer can start as soon as Iran suspends uranium enrichment.
It is a revised version of an offer spurned by Iran in 2006, which included civilian nuclear cooperation as well as wider trade in aircraft, energy, high technology and agriculture.
said Iran, which has earlier presented its own package of proposals aimed at resolving the row, had prepared its response by concentrating on common ground between the two sides and with a constructive and creative outlook.
Analysts and diplomats say they detect a softer tone from Iran towards the nuclear incentives offer, but that this may be a bid to buy time rather than a shift to accept world powers' key demand of a halt to uranium enrichment.
Enriched uranium can be used as fuel for power plants but also, if refined much more, provide material for nuclear bombs.
Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil exporter, says its nuclear programme is solely aimed at generating electricity so that it can sell more of its oil and gas.
An Iranian official, speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters last month, said time was on Iran's side.
"We will review the package but not the part about enrichment freeze ... We are moving forward with our work and Iran's nuclear capability is being constantly augmented," said the official, who was involved in talks with Solana in Tehran.
Meanwhile, Iran’s top Revolutionary Guards commander said in remarks published yesterday that his country would consider any military action against its nuclear facilities as the beginning of a war.
Gen Mohammed Ali Jafari's comments, carried by Iran's official news agency, come as speculation of possible military action against Iran's nuclear facilities mounts. The US has said all options are on the table, and there are worries that Israel might be considering a unilateral strike. Both countries, which accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, say they favor a diplomatic solution.
Jafari said any country that attacks Iran would regret doing so.
"Any action against Iran is regarded as the beginning of war," Jafari said late Thursday, according to the Irna report. "Iran's response to any military action will make the invaders regret their decision and action."
In a newspaper interview last week, Jafari warned that if attacked, Iran would barrage Israel with missiles and choke off the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a narrow outlet for oil tankers leaving the Persian Gulf.
However, the general was also quoted as saying that he thinks a strike by Iran's adversaries is unlikely.