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Iran hands EU's Solana nuclear offer response

4/07/2008 - 18:40

By Hashem Kalantari

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran responded on Friday to anincentives package offered by six world powers aimed atresolving a standoff over the Islamic Republic's disputednuclear ambitions, the official IRNA news agency said.

The agency quoted a senior source at Iran's SupremeNational Security Council as saying Tehran's reply wassubmitted to European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana,but did not give any details about its content.

Solana's office confirmed later on Friday it had receivedIran's reply, but a spokeswoman gave no further details.

The offer of economic and other incentives proposed by theUnited States, China, Russia, Germany, Britain and France waspresented to Iran by Solana last month to try to persuade it tohalt work they fear is aimed at making nuclear bombs.

Iran has said it is willing to enter talks about thepackage but has repeatedly rejected demands to halt uraniumenrichment, which can have both civilian and military uses.

The dispute over its nuclear programme has sparked fears ofa military confrontation and contributed to oil prices risingto record highs on global markets.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran's response to Solana and the(six powers') foreign ministers was submitted to Solana byIran's ambassador to Brussels," the source told IRNA, adding itwas signed by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

State radio earlier said Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief nuclearnegotiator, talked to Solana by telephone and that the twoagreed to hold more talks later this month.

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

BUYING TIME?

The incentives package says formal negotiations on theoffer can start as soon as Iran suspends uranium enrichment.

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.

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.

They say it is also uncertain whether Iran might accept a"freeze-for-freeze" idea to get preparatory talks going.

Such a step would involve Tehran freezing expansion ofnuclear enrichment in return for world powers halting moves toadd to three rounds of U.N. sanctions already imposed.

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.

(Additional reporting by Mark John in Brussels; Writing byFredrik Dahl; Editing by Diana Abdallah)

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