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Big Powers to Consult on Next Move on Iran Nuclear Issue

Senior diplomats from the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany - the P5 + 1 - will consult by telephone Wednesday on an Iranian note about their offer of incentives for Iran to end uranium enrichment. Iran's reply, conveyed to the European Union Tuesday, reportedly is non-committal. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

European Union chief diplomat Javier Solana has relayed the Iranian message to the six governments involved in the negotiations with Iran. While officials here say the document is still being studied, they do not contest news reports that Iran has again failed to provide a definitive reply to the incentives offer.

The P5+1 presented what was termed a refreshed incentives proposal in June, offering Iran - among other things - aid for civilian nuclear power if it stopped a large-scale uranium enrichment project seen by U.S. and other officials as weapons-related.

Iran did not provide a clear response at a meeting with the six powers in Geneva July 19, and now - after an additional two weeks of consideration - is apparently still not ready to commit to a freeze or suspension of the enrichment drive.

At a news briefing, State Department Acting Spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said that in the absence of an affirmative answer, the major powers will have to consider additional punitive measures.

"The Iranians sent a document to Javier Solana. The document has been sent out to the P5+1. They're going to be taking a look at it. There will be a political directors' conference call tomorrow morning. Obviously, as we've stated before, we're looking for a clear positive response from Iran, and in the absence of that we're going to have no choice but to pursue further measures against them as part of our dual-track strategy."

The U.N. Security Council has approved three resolutions sanctioning Iran for failing to halt enrichment. Iran has repeatedly said it is not pursuing nuclear weapons and has a right to master the uranium fuel cycle for civilian nuclear plants.

U.N. diplomats are quoted as saying that it may take months to approve a new sanctions resolution against Iran and that the matter is unlikely to be taken up until late September, when world leaders gather in New York for the start of the new U.N. General Assembly.

In the meantime, U.S. officials say unilateral sanctions on Iranian financial institutions by the United States and European allies could be tightened.

The major powers propose to suspend sanctions if Iran suspends enrichment altogether and returns to negotiations on its nuclear program. As a stepping-stone to negotiations, they have offered to freeze sanctions if Iran agreed to stop adding to its network of enrichment centrifuges.

While refusing to commit to freezing or suspending enrichment, Iran has proposed a series of high level unconditional meetings with the P5+1.