Monday, August 04, 2008

West Retracts Ultimatum to Tehran (Fars News)

West Retracts Ultimatum to Tehran

TEHRAN (FNA)- The United States and its European allies have pulled back from setting Saturday as a firm deadline for Iran to reply to the West's offer of incentives for a freeze in its nuclear drive.

"I didn't count the days. It's coming up soon," US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Thursday when asked if August 2 was the deadline for Iran to accept or reject the package.

Not only did McCormack omit to mention a strict deadline, he also said there was "no indication of that" when asked whether Washington would pull the incentives offer off the table.

Iran on Thursday rejected any deadline to give a final response to a package drawn up by world powers, and said there should be more negotiations to reach a deal.

"The language of deadline-setting is not understandable to us. We gave them our response within a month as we said we would, now they have to reply to us," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters on Thursday.

Mottaki said Iran and representatives of the major powers had agreed at a July 19 meeting in Geneva to find common ground on both sides' proposals aimed at ending the five-year standoff over Tehran's nuclear drive.

"Both sides said that in future meetings they should work on the communalities of both frameworks in a constructive way to reach an agreement that satisfies both sides, otherwise Iran's constructive activities will take their natural course," he said.

Tehran's arch-foe, the United States, insisted on Wednesday that Iran must give an answer on Saturday, warning of consequences of any defiance by the Islamic republic.

But, Washington took back its words on Thursday and denied its previous ultimatum to Tehran that it should present its answer till Saturday or face more sanctions.

Iran on July 4 handed major powers its "constructive and creative" response to their offer presented by EU foreign policy envoy Javier Solana in June aimed at persuading Tehran to give up its Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) right of uranium enrichment.

"Perhaps based on incorrect analysis, some of the Geneva participants got the wrong expectation, but our job was to give our views to the 5+1 framework... then we gave our own framework," Mottaki said.

Also on Wednesday, Mottaki said that no deadline was agreed upon during the meeting with EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana and P5+1 representatives in Tehran.

"No deadline was agreed upon during our meetings in Tehran. We delivered our opinions within a month and now they are obliged to announce their reaction," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said.

"The P5+1 should live up to the agreements reached during their negotiations with Iranian officials in Tehran," added Mottaki who was speaking at a press conference following the final session of the 15th Foreign Ministerial Conference of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran late Wednesday.

A diplomatic source in Brussels said an Iranian response could come in the next few days.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had given Iran two weeks to come up with a "serious" reply after an international meeting in Geneva on July 19.

Washington broke with past policy by sending top diplomat William Burns to the talks in Geneva.

Gary Sick of Columbia University, an Iran expert who was interviewed after the July 19 meeting, said Washington and Tehran were both showing an increased desire to end the showdown that had raised fears of a military conflict.

"Neither side wants to show that it is losing face, or that it is caving in or appeasing the other side, but both sides are interested in finding a way out of this conundrum," Sick told the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a US think-tank.

Sick said another change is Washington's willingness to look at opening an interests section in Iran - a first step toward restoring diplomatic ties cut three decades ago.

The expert said that Washington had learned that its past desire to isolate Iran with increasingly stiff sanctions had failed to stop Iran enriching uranium.

Along with the four other permanent UN Security Council members - Britain, France, China, and Russia - as well as Germany, the United States has taken a more conciliatory approach lately.

The so-called P5+1 have offered Iran economic and trade incentives if it gives up its Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) right of uranium enrichment.

If Iran accepts the package, there would be pre-negotiations during which Tehran would add no more uranium-enriching centrifuges and, in return, face no further sanctions.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana delivered the incentives package to Tehran in June.

In Brussels, the diplomatic source, who asked not to be named, said that for the Europeans "the Iranian reply should come in the next few days," without setting Saturday as a strict deadline.

Rice has warned of more "punitive measures," an allusion to more sanctions.

The US is at loggerheads with Iran over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran's nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for other third-world countries. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington's push for additional UN penalties contradicted the report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran's programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head - one in November and the other one in February - which praised Iran's truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seems to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran's cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran's nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

Many world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure against Iran unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports, stressing that Tehran's case should be normalized and returned to the UN nuclear watchdog due to the Islamic Republic's increased cooperation with the agency.

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