The United States said Wednesday it will carefully and seriously consider an Iranian proposal for new talks with world powers on its controversial nuclear program. Senior U.S. diplomats are discussing the Iranian offer with counterparts from the other permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany, the so-called P5+1 grouping.
The United States and its partners in the P5+1 had pressed Tehran for a response this month to their revised offer last April of incentives for Iran to halt uranium enrichment and return to negotiations over its nuclear program.
Now that an Iranian proposal is in hand, the Obama administration is beginning urgent consultations with the other members of the big-power grouping, and promising that the proposal from Tehran will get serious and careful consideration.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki formally handed over the Iranian proposal Wednesday to diplomats of the P5+1 member countries in Tehran. The Swiss ambassador, who represents U.S. interests there, accepted on behalf of the United States.
At the U.N. Security Council in New York, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice expressed hope the Iranian response to international concerns about its nuclear program is constructive.
"We hope that what is contained in that response is a serious, substantive and constructive response to the P5+1 proposal. We will study the contents carefully, " said Susan Rice.
The contents of the Iranian note were not disclosed, but Iranian state radio said Tehran is ready to help ease international concerns about its nuclear program.
However, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said earlier this week Iran continues to reject any halt to its uranium-enrichment program and was proposing negotiations over a range of global issues.
At a news briefing here, State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said political directors of the P5+1 grouping planned a telephone conference call on the Iranian offer late Wednesday.
He reiterated the Obama administration's readiness for direct engagement with Iran after a diplomatic break of 30 years but said the choice is up to the Tehran government.
"The administration has made it clear to Iran and the while international community that we have a new approach to Iran, and we made it clear to Iran that the choice really is theirs to make," he said. "They have a stark choice. They can continue down this path of isolation from the international community. Or they can choose to reintegrate with the international community."
The United States and European allies believe that Iran's uranium enrichment drive is weapons-related despite Tehran's assertions of peaceful intent.
The Obama administration has indicated Iran will face harsher international sanctions, possibly targeting critical imports of refined petroleum products, if it does not accept good-faith negotiations by the end of this month.
The nuclear issue is expected to be a major subject for President Barack Obama and other world leaders on the sidelines of the upcoming 20-nation summit in Pittsburgh and the U.N. General Assembly later this month.