Iran Calls Western Incentives Acceptable

The Associated Press
Sunday, July 16, 2006; 1:48 PM

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran said Sunday that Western incentives to halt its nuclear program were an "acceptable basis" for talks, and it is ready for detailed negotiations.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice responded that Iran should talk directly to negotiators if it wants to discuss the six-nation proposal.

Frustrated world powers agreed Wednesday to send Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible punishment, saying Tehran had given no sign it would bargain in earnest over its nuclear ambitions.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters in Tehran that, "We consider this package an appropriate basis, an acceptable basis (for talks)."

"Now is an appropriate opportunity for Iran and Europe to enter detailed negotiations," he said. "Sending the dossier to the U.N. Security Council means blocking and rejecting talks."

Asefi called on the eight major world powers meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, to choose dialogue with Iran.

"We can achieve acceptable results in this path," Asefi said.

Rice said at the Group of Eight meeting that Iran should contact European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, the envoy who delivered the proposal last month and has been meeting with Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani.

G-8 leaders were expected to discuss Iran's nuclear program at the summit but none directly addressed Asefi's comments.

"If the Iranians want to respond positively, I would hope that they would do so through the channel that is established between the six and the government of Iran, and that is Mr. Solana," Rice said. "There is, indeed, a very good proposal on the table that could be a basis for negotiations ... There is also a path ahead to the Security Council on which we are now launched."

Iran has said specialized committees in key state agencies are studying the June 6 offer by the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany, and that it will formally respond in late August.

The key demand of the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany is that Iran stop enriching uranium during any negotiations.

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