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. Iran rejects West's timetable for nuclear talks
MADRID, July 7 (AFP) Jul 07, 2006
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, on Friday again resisted pressure from the West for a swift response to its offers of economic incentives in return for the suspension of Tehran's uranium enrichment programme.

"The timetable drawn up by other people has no influence on what we do," he told a news conference in Madrid.

Iran is facing mounting international pressure to show before the Group of Eight (G8) summit on July 15-17 that it is ready to accept the offer from the six powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

On Thursday the European Union, Russia and the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, all reiterated appeals for Tehran to respond soon and the United States again brandished the threat of UN Security Council sanctions.

But Iran, which rejects Western suspicions that it is trying to covertly build an atomic bomb behind the screen of a civilian nuclear energy programme, is refusing categorically to suspend its uranium enrichment activities.

On Thursday a senior Iranian official in Brussels made it clear that no response could be expected next week, when representatives from Iran and the six powers sponsoring the proposal are due to hold talks in Paris.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Tehran will give its formal response to the offer in August.

At the same time, the Islamic republic has insisted it is "serious" about defusing the nuclear standoff.

Larijani is on a whirlwind tour of European capitals for talks on the issue in the run-up to the Paris talks on July 11.

On Thursday evening he met the European Union's top foreign policy envoy, Javier Solana, in Brussels. The EU described the encounter as a "good start" and Larijani said it had been "fruitful and constructive".

On Friday Larijani held discussions in Madrid with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos. The latter stressed that Spain supported the international offer and hoped Iran would "respond promptly" itto the proposal, which Madrid supported, according to the foreign ministry.

On Monday Larijani will hold talks in Rome with Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema, whose country has maintained a cautious attitude during the standoff.

Two weeks ago D'Alema said after meeting his Iranian counterpart that Tehran did not seem to be on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons.

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