Iran to Offer Its Own Terms on Uranium

Iran to Offer Its Own Terms on Uranium

Iran’s foreign minister said Saturday that the government would issue a counteroffer to an incentive proposal by Europe, China and the United States to get Iran to give up enriching uranium in the short term.

The foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, confirmed that Iran had received the proposal and would offer its own. “We hope that through shuttle diplomacy we can give our proposal in form of amendment or package after it is finalized to the other side for examination,” he said, according to the ISNA news agency.

Mr. Mottaki said, however, that Iran had not defined a time frame for its response.

President Bush said Friday that Iran had “weeks, not months” to respond to the package, which was issued by the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council, along with Germany. “If they choose not to verifiably suspend their program then there will be action taken in the U.N. Security Council,” he said.

Senior diplomats have said the proposal offers economic incentives for Iran to give up enriching uranium in the short-term and holds out the possibility that limited enrichment would be allowed years down the road if Iran lives up to strict international controls and goes to the Security Council for permission. On Friday, a senior conservative cleric maintained that Iran would never freeze its enrichment program. Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, head of the powerful Guardian Council, said in a Friday prayer sermon that Iran “must have uranium enrichment between 3.5 to 5 percent and they have to accept it.”

But Mr. Mottaki’s comments on Saturday signaled that Iran was ready to negotiate, even if its counteroffer might try to push back the limits on its nuclear program.

“We will try to reach a bilateral agreement,” Mr. Mottaki said. “A kind of agreement that will serve the interests of one side and eradicate the concerns of the other side.”

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, unexpectedly flew to Egypt on Saturday to discuss Iran’s nuclear program with Egypt’s foreign minister, ISNA reported. “The nuclear program has turned into an international issue and it will affect the future of all Islamic countries,” it quoted Mr. Larijani as saying.


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