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    US Awaits Definitive Iranian Response on Nuclear Offer

    The State Department says the United States is awaiting a definitive Iranian reply to the offer of incentives for it to halt uranium enrichment.  Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a U.S. television interview, called for talks based on an Iranian statement submitted in Geneva earlier this month.  VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

    The State Department is dismissing the Ahmadinejad interview remarks as more rhetoric, and says the major powers want a firm reply to their offer of incentives for Iran to stop a nuclear program U.S. officials believe is weapons-related.

    The enhanced incentives package was presented to Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Geneva July 19 by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and diplomats from the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany, including the third-ranking State Department official William Burns.

    Though the P5 Plus One wanted a yes or no reply, Iran responded with a two-page policy statement skirting the issue of uranium enrichment and proposing an open-ended series of meetings with Solana and P5 Plus One foreign ministers.

    In an interview with NBC News, Mr. Ahmadinejad again denied that Iran seeks nuclear weapons and said the two sides should negotiate over the two packages and try to find common ground.

    "They submitted a package and we responded by submitting our own package," he said. "They again submitted a work plan and we submitted our own work plan.  It is very natural in the first step that we are going to negotiate over the common ground as they exist inside the two packages."

    In a talk with reporters, Acting State Department Spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said the P5 Plus One countries are not ignoring the Iranian submission, but that it is viewed by no one as the firm reply sought by the major powers.

    "We are waiting for a definitive statement," he said. "We have stated clearly that it should come through the normal channel - which is Jalili to Solana, and the clock on the two weeks is ticking."

    At the meeting with Jalili, Solana gave Iran two weeks to give a clear reply, a period that expires Saturday.

    If Iran accepts the P5 Plus One package and suspends enrichment, U.N. Security Council sanctions would be suspended and Iran would, among other things, get aid for civilian nuclear power and access to new passenger aircraft.

    Solana also offered a six-week period of so-called pre-negotiations in which no new sanctions would be added if Iran stopped adding to its enrichment capacity.

    In apparent defiance of that proposal, Mr. Ahmadinejad announced Saturday that Iran has increased its array of uranium enriching centrifuges to 6,000.

    The United States has warned Iran of further punitive measures if it spurns the P5 Plus One offer and continues enrichment.  It has not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails.  

     

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