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US Does Not Rule Out Accepting Possible Offer From Iran

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Halifax, Nova Scotia (AFP) Sep 11, 2006
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday did not rule out accepting a possible offer from Iran to temporarily suspend its uranium enrichment as a way to avoid threatened UN sanctions. But she insisted the suspension be in place and be verifiable before any negotiations on resolving the deadlock over Iran's disputed nuclear program.

Rice's remarks indicated a willingess to let talks play out between Iran and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana even as Washington pushes for UN Security Council action against Tehran.

"From our point of view, we've got nothing to lose by, as we work toward the sanctions resolution, having Javier Solana explore with the Iranians whether there is a way to get to the negotiations," she told reporters travelling with her to Canada.

Rice added: "I continue to hope that the Iranians will take the opportunity put before them."

The top US diplomat said she had spoken to Solana about his discussions last weekend with top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and was unaware of any formal offer from Tehran, but called the atmosphere at the talks "good."

"I don't think there's an offer at this point. The issue is, are the Iranians prepared to suspend so that negotiations can begin?" she said.

"As far as I know, the Iranians have not yet said they would suspend prior to negotiations, which is what the issue has been."

Rice, in Halifax to thank Canada for accepting some 220 passenger planes after the September 11, 2001 attacks, sidestepped a question about whether the United States would accept a temporary suspension of uranium enrichment work.

"As to time limitations, I haven't heard any Iranian offer so I don't know what to make of that," she said.

"If the Iranians are in a state of suspension, then we would be prepared not to have activity in the Security Council. But there has to be suspension if there is going to be any negotiations."

The UN Security Council demanded Iran suspend uranium enrichment activities by August 31 or face the prospect of sanctions. Tehran refused but in talks with the EU's Solana, Iran offered a possible two-month suspension if a list of elaborate conditions were met, a Western diplomat has told AFP in Vienna.

The US and European governments suspect Iran is pursuing a clandestine project to build atomic weapons, but Tehran insists its program is designed purely for the generation of electricity.

Rice said the United States will start pushing the UN for "sanctions commensurate with Iranian behavior" and warned Iran should not be allowed to stall UN action.

"The time is coming very soon when we're going to have to adopt a Security Council resolution," Rice said.

While Russia and China have expressed reluctance to impose sanctions against Iran, Rice said Washington may choose to pursue sanctions outside the Security Council.

"The international community can bring a lot of isolation on Iran, both formally and informally, both through the Security Council and through like-minded states taking action even if the Security Council does not," she said.

Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States have offered a package of incentives to Tehran in a bid to convince Iran to stop uranium enrichment work.

Iran insists it has a right as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty to pursue uranium enrichment, a process that produces nuclear reactor fuel but can also make material for an atom bomb.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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