Negotiated end to nuclear standoff possible: Iranian FM

Posted in Iran | 03-Jul-08 | Source: AFP

Agence France-Presse

Iran said here Wednesday that a "multi-faceted solution" to its nuclear standoff with six major powers was possible as Washington insisted on a "verifiable suspension" of Tehran's nuclear enrichment activities.

"We see the possibility of arriving at a multi-faceted solution," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told a press conference at the United Nations, commenting on a revised package of economic and energy incentives.

The six powers last month presented Iran with the package offering additional incentives in exchange for Tehran suspending uranium enrichment, which the West fears could be used to make an atomic bomb.

Mottaki told reporters here that an examination of the package presented by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to Tehran on behalf of the six "will enter the final stage soon."

"The approach adopted by Mr Solana was different from the past. It was respectful," he added.

"We will inform the different parties of our decision," Mottaki said, referring to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany.

Iran's state-run IRNA news agency meanwhile quoted Mottaki as saying in an interview with US media in New York Tuesday that a "new process" was underway in the five-year nuclear crisis after Solana's visit to Tehran last month.

"A process is underway and it started with the package delivered by Iran," Mottaki said. "This package presented tackled important questions and then on the other side the world powers offered their own package."

Iran's own package is a more all-embracing effort to solve global problems and notably suggests setting up a consortium in Iran for enriching uranium.

Mottaki would not comment on reports that Solana had proposed a "freeze for freeze" formula as a prelude to more substantive talks..

Under the proposal Tehran would freeze its nuclear enrichment program at current levels in exchange for which there would be no additional sanctions by the UN Security Council.

"A good package has been presented, we're waiting for an authoritative answer," said US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad. "We hope that the answer will be yes and an unambiguous yes."

On Tuesday, a top advisor to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke out in favor of negotiations with the world powers, who fear that Iran is trying to covertly develop a nuclear weapon.

"We are hearing new language from Tehran that was not heard before," Britain's UN Ambassador John Sawers told reporters here Wednesday. "We don't yet know what it means."

On the "freeze for freeze" formula, Sawers said it was designed "to create a climate whereby we can talk about getting into talks."

"We can have a period of weeks, not specified, a period when the Iranians do not do any augmentation of their nuclear program, don't add to the number of centrifuges ... and the Security Council does not take any further action on sanctions," he added.

The UN Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions against Tehran for defying UN resolutions to halt enrichment, but Khalilzad made it clear the goal was to arrive at a "verifiable suspension" of such activities.

In exchange Washington was prepared to talk with Iran, including at a very senior level, on how to settle issues of mutual concern, he said.

Iran insists it has the right to enrich uranium to make nuclear fuel to help meet its energy needs. At highly-refined levels, such work can also make the fissile core of an atomic bomb, but Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and has vehemently denied that it is seeking to make weapons.