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US Says Iranian Response 'Falls Short' of Security Council Terms

The United States said Wednesday it will review Iran's response to the international proposal on its disputed nuclear program. But the State Department said the Iranian reply falls short of conditions set by the U.N. Security Council.

The carefully worded U.S. statement does not flatly reject the Iranian document, which was delivered to an international team of diplomats Tuesday in Tehran.

But it does make clear that the Iranian response falls short of conditions set by the U.N. Security Council and says the United States will consult with council members and other countries on what to do next.

The lengthy Iranian policy paper came in response to an offer in June by the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany that it suspend uranium enrichment and other sensitive nuclear activity in return for political and economic incentives.

The offer by the so-called P-Five plus one was subsequently backed up by a Security Council resolution that gave Iran until the end of this month to return to negotiations on its nuclear program or face sanctions.

The U.S. statement, which followed a White House breakfast meeting involving President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other key aides, was read to reporters without elaboration by State Department Acting Spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos.

"We acknowledge that Iran considers its response as a serious offer, and we will review it," he said. "The response, however, falls short of the conditions set by the Security Council, which require the full and verifiable suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. We are consulting closely, including with other members of the Security Council, on next steps."

The White House said President Bush discussed the nuclear issue by telephone Wednesday with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Officials here said Secretary Rice had a separate conversation with Mr. Annan, and another with European Union chief diplomat Javier Solana, who has led European nuclear contacts with Tehran.

Iran said Tuesday it was ready to enter into serious negotiations on a broad range of nuclear and other issues with the United States and Europe, but it refused to abide by the demand that it suspend uranium enrichment.

Iran, which maintains its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, has said it has a right to enrich uranium as a signatory of the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

The United States and some European governments believe Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program that it has long concealed from international inspectors.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said Tuesday the United States was prepared to move rapidly on a new Security Council resolution calling for sanctions against Iran, if it failed to abide by the August 31 deadline.

Iran's response, offering to negotiate but refusing to accept an early end to enrichment, is widely seen as an attempt to disrupt efforts on the Security Council for a consensus on sanctions.

China and Russia have expressed reluctance about imposing economic penalties on Tehran. But U.S. officials had been voicing confidence that the major powers would agree, at least, on travel restrictions and asset freezes targeted at key Iranian leaders.