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. Iran says awaiting nuclear proposal, but won't halt enrichment
TEHRAN, June 3 (AFP) Jun 03, 2006
Iran said Saturday it was awaiting a new international proposal to end the crisis over its disputed nuclear programme but stuck by its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment work.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was expected in Tehran in the coming days to officially submit the proposal for fresh multilateral talks and a package of incentives.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, who agreed to the package on Thursday, say it is conditional on Tehran first halting enrichment. That activity is at the centre of fears the country could make nuclear weapons.

"Negotiations must be without preconditions," Mottaki said of the demand. "No condition for negotiations is acceptable, especially the condition that has been set."

But he nevertheless said Iran "needed to examine these proposals" before giving its formal response. In Brussels, Solana's spokeswoman confirmed plans for a visit to Tehran, but said the timing had yet to be fixed.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also received a call from United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, in which he also "stressed the readiness of the Islamic Republic of Iran for dialogue on the nuclear issue in fair, equal and unconditional circumstances without any threat", IRNA reported.

Ahmadinejad is to give a speech Saturday night amid the commemoration of the death in 1989 of Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

The United States has insisted that Iran freeze its sensitive atomic activities before negotiations, while Tehran has refused to suspend uranium enrichment.

In Kuwait, the top US Middle East envoy, David Welch, called on Iran to "make the right choice," saying Washington has no "thirst for a military option.

"We want to see the success of the diplomatic avenue ... We are not hungry to see the alternative ... We have no thirst for a military option," the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs said.

Military action "is not a good idea, especially for the Iranians. We hope they make the right choice, so we are left with the positive track and not the negative track," Welch told a press conference.

Meanwhile, the Vatican said the crisis must be resolved "by diplomacy" and that every effort should be made to reach a negotiated solution.

"The current difficulties can and must be resolved by diplomacy, using all means that diplomats have at their disposal," spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.

The Roman Catholic Church also stresses the need for "open and constructive dialogue", which called for good will and being considerate "of the honor and sensitivity of each country", Navarro-Valls said.

"In that way, we will be able to reach an agreement," he said.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that Iran had only weeks to respond to the proposal of trade, security and technology incentives if Iran agrees to a moratorium on enrichment.

Crucially, the United States has also promised to join the talks if Iran agrees -- paving the way for what could be the most substantive talks between the two arch-enemies since they cut off diplomatic ties 26 years ago.

"There is no kind of ultimatum deadline, although I think we are talking about several weeks," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said.

Russia opposes the use of force against Iran and believes it is "early" to discuss the possibility of sanctions, President Vladimir Putin echoed Friday.

The United States, however, has said independently that no option -- including military action -- is off the table in dealing with Iran.

US National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said in London Friday that Iran appeared determined to make nuclear weapons and could develop such an arsenal as early as 2010.

Iran insists it only wants to generate electricity, and that fuel cycle work is a right enshrined by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, has been investigating Iran for more than three years. It says it can still not confirm whether the Islamic republic's nuclear drive is purely peaceful.

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