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Radio says Iran to respond to nuclear offer on Friday

4/07/2008 - 13:37

By Hashem Kalantari

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran signalled it could respond as earlyas Friday to incentives offered by six world powers to try toentice Tehran to stop enriching uranium they fear could resultin a nuclear bomb.

State radio said Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief nuclearnegotiator, spoke to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana bytelephone and they agreed to hold more talks later this month.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran's response to the letter bythe foreign ministers of the six countries ... will be giventoday," Jalili was quoted as telling the European Union's topdiplomat.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki was earlierquoted by Iranian media as saying Tehran's response to theincentives package would be sent to Solana and the six powers'foreign ministers "in the course of the days to come."

The offer of economic and other incentives proposed by thesix - the United States, China, Russia, Germany, Britain andFrance - was presented to Iran by Solana on June 14 in a bid toresolve a long-running dispute over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

The letter Jalili referred to formed part of the incentivespackage presented by Solana and was signed by the sextet'sforeign ministers. His comments did not make clear how Iranwould hand over its response and how detailed it would be.

The package says formal negotiations on the offer can startas soon as Iran suspends uranium enrichment, which can haveboth civilian and military purposes.

BUYING TIME?

It is a revised version of an offer spurned by Iran in2006, which included civilian nuclear cooperation as well aswider trade in aircraft, energy, high technology andagriculture.

Iran has previously said it was willing to hold talks onthe offer, but has ruled out halting sensitive nuclear work theWest suspects had military aims, a charge Tehran denies.

Jalili said Iran, which has earlier presented its ownpackage of proposals aimed at defusing the row, had preparedits response by concentrating on common ground between the twosides and with a constructive and creative outlook.

Analysts and diplomats say they detect a softer tone fromIran towards the nuclear incentives offer, but that this may bea bid to buy time rather than a shift to accept world powers'key demand of a halt to uranium enrichment.

Enriched uranium can be used as fuel for power plants butalso, if refined much more, provide material for nuclear bombs.

Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil exporter, says itsnuclear programme is solely aimed at generating electricity sothat it can sell more of its oil and gas.

An Iranian official, speaking on condition of anonymity toReuters last month, said time was on Iran's side.

"We will review the package but not the part aboutenrichment freeze ... We are moving forward with our work andIran's nuclear capability is being constantly augmented," saidthe official, who was involved in talks with Solana in Tehran.

(Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

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