Iran denies nuclear messages conflicting

news41.jpgTEHRAN (AFP) — Iran on Saturday denied any contradictions in its reactions to an international nuclear proposal, saying the offer of incentives in return for a suspension of sensitive atomic work was still being examined.

“Our stance regarding the 5+1 package is quite clear,” Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said of the proposal from the five permanent Security Council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany.

“The Islamic republic’s officials have said this is a positive step forward. The opinions of both sides must be examined. We will seriously and carefully study the 5+1’s views and will inform them of our suggestions as a response,” he asserted.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took a conciliatory line Friday over the June 6 offer by the six world powers, saying: “We regard the offer of a package as a step forward and I have instructed my colleagues to carefully consider it.” But his comments came a day after Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini struck a harder tone when he said the Islamic regime would not bow to pressure — implicitly rejecting international calls to suspend uranium enrichment.

A suspension of enrichment is a non-negotiable demand in the proposal. Although Iran has welcomed the proposal as “positive,” it has also rejected any preconditions and has indicated it will not return to a freeze of enrichment.

Mottaki asserted that “there is no conflict in the statements made by the Islamic republic’s officials.”

“We have been advised by people like [UN Secretary General] Kofi Annan not to be hasty in giving a response. We will respond whenever a thorough examination is completed and a response is ready,” he told reporters, indicating that Iran had yet to reach a final decision.

On Friday, the United States and Europe pressed Iran to give a firm response to the offer of incentives and multilateral talks, which are conditional to Iran first suspending enrichment — work which is at the centre of fears the country could acquire nuclear weapons.

Washington and its allies believe the Iranian programme is a cover for an attempt to build a nuclear weapon. Iran insists it is peaceful, arguing that it only wants to enrich uranium to make civilian reactor fuel.

Western officials say they expect a response from Iran before the end of June.

“We have heard some positive statements from the Iranians,” US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters in Washington on Friday.

But she added: “We need an answer, the international community needs an answer [from Iran] so we know if, in fact, the negotiating track is going to bear fruit.” China and Russia have resisted talk of UN Security Council sanctions against Iran, but China’s President Hu Jintao also urged Iran to resume talks.

“The proposal put forward by China, Russia, the United States and Europe has provided a new opportunity for the settlement of the issue,” Hu told Ahmadinejad, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

“We hope the Iranian side will earnestly study (the proposal), positively respond and seek an earlier resumption of the nuclear talks,” Hu said.

A European diplomat close to the International Atomic Energy Agency  in Vienna also said the Iranian president and the supreme leader’s comments were not contradictory — in so far as neither “has rejected the offer out of hand.”

The diplomat said the bottom line was that Iran wants “unconditional talks” as it does not accept the condition that it suspend enrichment.

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