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    Iran's Foreign Minister Shrugs Off Nuclear Deadline

    A top Iranian official, observing a South Asian regional leaders' summit, has dismissed a Saturday deadline to reply to an offer made by major powers concerning Tehran's nuclear program. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo.

    Iran's foreign minister denies his country is facing any deadline to accept an incentives package in exchange for suspending uranium enrichment activities, or face additional sanctions.

    Manouchehr  Mottaki, speaking to reporters Saturday evening in the Sri Lankan capital, says Iran is still awaiting a response from world powers to a package Tehran proposed last month.

    The Iranian foreign minister says once both packages have been reviewed then there will be proper grounds for further discussion.

    The United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia on July 19th asked Iran to respond to their incentive package. The Russians have rejected the notion of a firm deadline and it is unclear whether any of the others will now insist Tehran give an immediate reply.  

    Iran state television reported Friday that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has vowed to use force against what he calls "enemies" who want to curtail Tehran's controversial nuclear program.

    In Washington on Friday, Israel's deputy prime minister, Shaul Mofaz, warned that Iran continues to advance towards a military nuclear capability. The Israeli urged influential governments to increase pressure on the Islamic Republic.

    Iranian foreign minister Mottaki replied Saturday that Mofaz's assertions do not merit a response.

    Mottaki says Israel is a cancerous spot filled with its own problems and comments from a state full of lies and corruption have no value.

    Mottaki is in Colombo as Iran's observer to the annual leader's summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. Officials from the United States and European Union are also attending the summit as observers but it is unclear if they have had any interaction here with the Iranian official.

    Western nations accuse Iran of enriching uranium in order to make nuclear weapons.  Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

    The U.N. Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran for defying international demands to suspend enrichment.



    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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