No deadline for Iran reply in atomic dispute: Russia

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia has set no deadline for Iran to respond to an offer from six world powers aimed at resolving Tehran’s nuclear standoff with the West, Russia’s U.N. ambassador said on Wednesday.

“We haven’t set any deadlines ourselves for their response and there is ongoing dialogue,” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters. “Certainly there is a matter which is going to be discussed … by the ministers in September.”

Churkin did not comment on a telephone conversation held on Wednesday with senior foreign ministry officials from the six countries leading the efforts to persuade Tehran to freeze its nuclear enrichment program — Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France and Germany.

The United States and Britain said the six agreed to consider a fourth sanctions resolution at the U.N. Security Council. Churkin said the issue had not been raised in New York and made it clear that Russia was in no hurry to raise it.

“I haven’t seen any pushes here,” he said.

He said the next steps would be discussed at a meeting of foreign ministers from the six countries on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in September.

Other council diplomats have said privately they believed no new draft sanctions resolution would be ready to circulate to the full council before the General Assembly.

Several diplomats also have expressed surprise at what they described as a U.S. rush to begin drafting new sanctions.

Iran has not given a clear response to the powers’ July 19 offer of incentives in exchange for halting enrichment. Churkin said Moscow would have liked one.

“We would preferred a clear yes but it’s more complicated than that as we all know,” he said. “But we do believe that dialogue can continue.”

Western countries believe Iran’s civilian nuclear program is a front for developing atom bombs. Tehran has so far refused to suspend its enrichment program, saying its nuclear ambitions are limited to the peaceful generation of electricity.

Churkin said Moscow believes there is still a possibility Iran could come around and accept the offer, the full details of which have not been made public.

“We certainly do not believe that it is a foregone conclusion that it is not going to be successful,” Churkin said.

The precise terms of the offer would be negotiable once Iran would stop enriching uranium. However, the core of it is economic and trade rewards, including the possibility for Iran to purchase nuclear expertise and reactors.

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