The United States said Tuesday Iran is not being pressed for a quick response to the international proposal aimed at resolving the crisis over its nuclear program. The package of incentives for Iran to halt uranium enrichment, or penalties if it doesn't, was formally presented in Tehran by European Union chief diplomat Javier Solana.
The Bush administration is waiting for an Iranian response with caution and patience, putting no deadline on decision-making in Tehran, and refusing to provide details of the so-called "carrots and sticks" package drawn up by the five permanent U.N. Security Council member states and Germany.
State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said Secretary of State Condoleezza was briefed by telephone by Solana, who he said told the secretary his discussions on Tehran had been "very useful and constructive."
The spokesman said Solana, contacted after his return to Brussels, further said the Iranians told him they would consider the proposal but would need some time to review it, and that the European envoy said he would be back in contact with them in the coming days.
Iran's initial public response has been muted, with the country's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Laranjani, saying the initiative contains "positive steps" but also some ambiguities.
President Bush said in Texas Iran's early reaction sounds positive and his spokesman Tony Snow said it was heartening that Iran appeared to be taking the big-power initiative seriously.
At a news briefing, the State Department Spokesman McCormack said the international offer is not open-ended but that Iran will be given ample time - a matter of weeks not months - to consider its reply:
"The diplomacy, I would say, is at a sensitive stage," said Sean McCormack. "This package has been presented to the Iranian government. We want to give them a little bit of space to consider what's in the package, both on the positive as well as the negative side. We want to do that free from having a public debate about what has been agreed upon by all the members of the P-5 Plus One."
Though details have not been given, the international package is understood to offer Iran trade and technological assistance if it halts uranium enrichment and other nuclear activity U.S. and European officials believe is weapons-related and returns to negotiations with Britain, France and Germany.
If it spurns the offer, Iran would face U.N. Security Council action followed by various sanctions.
The New York Times reported Tuesday the incentives offer includes a commitment by the sponsors of the package to assist Iran's civil nuclear program, including joint projects for building internationally safeguarded light-water reactors.
The newspaper said the United States would agree to back Iran's membership in the World Trade Organization and drop sanctions that have prevented Iran from buying spare parts for its aging fleet of American made aircraft.
Spokesman McCormack reiterated Tuesday the package does not include U.S. security guarantees for Iran, either unilateral or in tandem with the other major powers.
Iran has said its nuclear efforts are entirely peaceful and that it has a right to a civil nuclear power program, including uranium enrichment.
Officials here say they do not contest that basic right, but that Iran should not be permitted to enrich uranium or conduct other sensitive activity because of years of efforts to deceive international inspectors.