The State Department confirms that Iran could enter negotiations on its
nuclear program without initially meeting the demand of the United
States and other major powers that it suspend its uranium enrichment
program. U.S. officials say they are amenable to a so-called
pre-negotiation in which Iran would only be required to stop adding to
its enrichment capacity. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State
The offer of a so-called pre-negotiation period had
been reported in recent days in news accounts quoting various
diplomatic sources, but the comments by State Department Spokesman Sean
McCormack were the most specific on the subject to date.
United States, along with the four other permanent U.N. Security
Council member countries and Germany, have offered Iran a variety of
incentives including aid for its civil nuclear program if it halts a
uranium-enrichment drive that U.S. and other officials believe is
European Union chief diplomat Javier Solana and
a delegation of diplomats from the P-5 plus-1 group presented Iran in
mid-June with what is described as a refreshed incentives proposal, to
which Iran has yet to give a final reply.
In a talk with
reporters, State Department Spokesman McCormack confirmed that the
big-power proposal also includes the offer of a pre-negotiation period,
lasting six weeks, in which Iran would add no more centrifuges to its
enrichment effort though existing ones could stay in operation.
that period, Iran would begin nuclear talks with members of the P-5
plus 1, excluding the United States, on the benefits package.
United States, which has not had diplomatic relations with Iran in
nearly three-decades, would join the talks at the end of the
pre-negotiation period provided, by that time, Iran has suspended its
If Iran suspended the enrichment program, the major powers would suspend enactment of U.N. Security Council sanctions on Iran.
his comments, McCormack defended the pre-negotiation offer amid
suggestions by some critics that it is too generous an offer to Tehran:
still holds that in order to realize full-blown negotiations with the
United States at the table at the level of Secretary of State, they
need to suspend - suspension for suspension. We think that this is an
eminently-reasonable offer and should the Iranians accept the offer, we
think that at the end of what would be less than two months, you could
get to the desired goal: suspension for suspension and the beginning of
a negotiations, potentially on a whole host of issues," he said.
of State Condoleezza Rice has said repeatedly that if Iran suspended
uranium enrichment, she would be prepared to directly engage her
Iranian counterpart in any venue on any issue the Iranians would want
Iran is expected to deliver its answer to the
refreshed incentives offer soon, probably in a Tehran meeting between
the European Union's Solana and Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.
public Iranian comments about the offer have been largely negative,
officials here say there have also been remarks that suggest a debate
within the Iranian leadership about whether to accept.
said turning down the incentives offer would mean increased political
isolation and tighter economic curbs on Iran, noting this week's
decision by the French energy firm Total to halt plans for a major
investment in Iranian oil fields.
The U.S. spokesman also said
the Bush administration sees no need to send its key envoy on the
nuclear issue, Undersecretary of State William Burns, to Tehran with
Mr. Solana on his expected mission. He said the U.S. commitment and
good faith with regard to the incentives offer is already clear.