WASHINGTON (Reuters) â€” The United States said on Wednesday that Iran’s request for talks fell short of the UN Security Council’s demand for it to halt its nuclear programme.
Washington, in its first reaction to Iran’s reply, did not reject Tehran’s response outright. It said it would review it. The White House said it was consulting closely with other council members over what steps to take and France said Iran’s offer of talks could only be accepted if it first halted uranium enrichment.
“We acknowledge that Iran considers its response as a serious offer and we will review it,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.
“The response, however, falls short of the conditions set by the Security Council which require the full and verifiable suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.” Iran handed over its formal response on Tuesday to a nuclear incentives offer from major powers and said it contained ideas that would allow serious talks about its standoff with the West to start immediately.
Tehran gave no sign of heeding a key United Nations Security Council demand that it freeze uranium enrichment by August 31 or face the prospect of sanctions.
The enrichment work can be used to make fuel for nuclear power plants or material for warheads.
The five permanent council members â€” Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States â€” plus Germany offered Iran economic and other incentives to stop enrichment.
Analysts say Iran’s answer, described by diplomats as complex and nuanced, was probably designed to divide Security Council members Russia and China, both key trade partners of Tehran, from the United States, Britain and France, which have backed tougher sanctions. All five have a veto on the council.
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said earlier that world powers, who fear Iran aims to make nuclear bombs, were ready to take up Iran’s call for talks only if it first suspends uranium enrichment.
“As we have always said… a return to the negotiating table is tied to the suspension of uranium enrichment,” he told a news conference in Paris.
Wall Street reacted negatively to the US statement, with stocks adding to losses following the afternoon announcement.
An Iranian news agency report that Tehran will soon announce a “very important achievement” in an unspecified area of nuclear technology added to the negative sentiment.
Oil prices, which have surged to record highs in recent months partly due to tensions over the atomic standoff, fell below $73 a barrel on Wednesday. Traders said Iranian intransigence was factored into the market.
“Iran expects a logical and fair reaction [of the West] to its reply,” government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
Â “Iran is fully prepared for any possible scenario, but we think that Iran’s nuclear issue could be resolved through talks.”
Western diplomats said the sextet would reserve judgement pending a report from UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohammad Al Baradei, due Aug. 31, that will certify whether Iran has stopped enrichment-related work or not.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, said earlier that Washington would move quickly on a resolution seeking sanctions if Tehran rejected the incentives offer.
A Chinese foreign ministry statement urged Iran to consider international concerns and take “constructive steps… We also hope that other parties remain patient and calm,” it said.
Russian foreign ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin, reflecting Moscow’s reluctance to take punitive action against Iran, was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying: “Russia will continue with the idea of seeking a political, negotiated settlement concerning Iran’s nuclear programme.” The world’s fourth-largest oil exporter, Iran says it needs to enrich uranium as a peaceful, alternative energy source and has a right to do so under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.