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. Details of Iranian nuclear response, according to Iran experts
VIENNA, Aug 24 (AFP) Aug 24, 2006
Iran is seeking time guarantees on getting benefits, such as light-water reactors, with its response to the international offer over its nuclear ambitions, two experts on Iran said in a report published on the Internet.

"Iran wants firm guarantees on the proposed offers of nuclear assistance, such as the sale of light water reactors to Iran, as well as a secured nuclear fuel supply," Abbas Maleki and Kevah Afrasiabi said on the AgenceGlobal.com web site.

Their comments are apparently the first to give details on Iran's response Tuesday to an offer from six world powers of negotiations on trade, technology and security benefits if Iran freezes its strategic nuclear fuel work.

World leaders have said however that Iran's response is unsatisfactory.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday: "It does not state what we expect -- namely 'we are suspending uranium enrichment, coming to the negotiating table and will speak about the opportunities and possibilities for Iran'. That is unfortunately not the case."

A senior European diplomat, who saw the confidential Iranian response to the package from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, said Iran had "not said 'no' to the offer but did say 'no' to suspending enrichment," the process that makes nuclear reactor fuel but also atom bomb material.

The United States charges that Iran's nuclear program is a smokescreen for an attempt to produce a bomb but Iran insists its atomic drive is a peaceful effort to generate electricity.

Maleki, director of the International Institute for Caspian Studies in Tehran, and Afrasiabi, a political scientist who has also taught in Tehran, said: "It will be a pity if Washington overlooks this opportunity for a fair negotiation with Iran, especially considering the details of Iran's response."

They said Iran would "seriously entertain suspending the fuel cycle if and when it feels vindicated as a matter of principle."

But a diplomat closely following the issue said the problem is that the Iranians are saying, "'Let's talk and then we might suspend enrichment' while the international powers want Iran to suspend and then hold talks."

The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution last month giving Iran until August 31 to freeze its uranium enrichment program or face sanctions.

The two academics said that if there is a move towards sanctions after August 31 "despite the positive dimensions of Iran's offer, the stage will be set for a full-scale international crisis."

Maleki and Afrasiabi said Iran had complained in its response that the incentives package mentioned Tehran's obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) but did not assert Iran's right under that treaty to "acquire nuclear technology," and so to enrich uranium.

According to the two academics, Iran also wants:

-- Clarification about whether the United States is willing to lift sanctions on "nuclear and technological assistance to Iran."

-- Clarification on Iran getting regional security guarantees.

-- A specific "timeline on the promised incentives, including the economic and trade incentives."

The two academics also said that "Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani has declared Iran's willingness to use its influence in Lebanon for an Israeli-Hezbollah prisoners exchange, reminding the world of Iran's stabilizing role."

All rights reserved. 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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