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Annan Urges Speedy Iranian Reply to Nuclear Offer


U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is urging Iran to respond quickly to a package of incentives offered by world powers in return for halting its uranium enrichment program.

Secretary-General Annan met Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki for the second time in less than a week Tuesday.

A statement issued after the latest meeting said Mr. Annan had reiterated his suggestion that Iran should speed up its response to proposals by the five permanent Security Council members and Germany. Those proposals aim to persuade Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment in return for a package of incentives, including an offer of peaceful nuclear technology from the United States.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad earlier suggested there would be no reply to the proposal before mid-August. As he went into the meeting, Secretary-General Annan said he remains hopeful an answer would come before that.

"I didn't go as far as to say mid-August, and I hope it is still possible for them to give an answer before mid-August, but I will pursue that with the minister," said Kofi Annan.

The Security Council's "permanent five" and Germany are pushing Tehran to reply before a meeting of foreign ministers of the seven industrialized powers and Russia later this week in Moscow. Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton rejected Iran's August date, saying a reply should be forthcoming within weeks, not months.

"We think Iran owes us a response right now, basically," said John Bolton.

The statement issued by Secretary-General Annan's office after Tuesday's meeting said his talks with the Iranian foreign ministers also included Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Annan described the conversation as encompassing the broader Middle East, saying "they are an important player in the region".

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