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Germany Urges Iran to Freeze Enrichment, Begin Negotiations


Iran's foreign minister says Tehran is reviewing a package of international incentives, designed to resolve the standoff over its nuclear program. The minister made the comments after talks in Berlin with his German counterpart.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchechr Mottaki appeared upbeat after talks in Berlin with his German counterpart. He told reporters the incentives offered by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany contained what he called "positive points." He said the package is being "very seriously examined" by Iran. "We see very positive points in this offer," he said. But he also said there are "unclear points," and Iran will have questions.

Mottaki said, after Iran has considered the proposal, it will inform its "European partners" of its position, but he did not indicate when that would be.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said his country will take until mid-August to respond. President Bush wants Iran to respond sooner.

The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany, are seeking to persuade Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment. In return they are offering a package of incentives, including peaceful nuclear technology.

Speaking at a joint news conference, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he wanted an answer from Iran as soon as possible, saying the two sides have reached a "decisive phase." He said, "either the international conflict will continue, which means the process of isolating Iran will also continue, or an opportunity will be found for new and comprehensive cooperation between Iran and the world community."

The United States and its European allies believe Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes.

During the discussions, Mottaki and Steinmeier agreed that Iran will meet again with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana to go over the incentives package.

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