Iran says it will not stop enriching uranium as a precondition for potential talks with the United States and European allies. President Bush wants Iran to respond to an offer from the international community by next month. Iran wants to wait until August.
The deputy head of Iran's National Security Council says the only way to resolve the standoff over his country's nuclear program is through talks without conditions.
Javad Vaeedi told a political forum in Vienna that Iran considers the suspension of uranium enrichment to be neither a precondition for those talks nor a possible outcome of those talks.
Suspending enrichment is a precondition for talks being offered by Britain, France and Germany along with the United States. Their plan is believed to offer support for civilian nuclear power and an easing of some trade restrictions in exchange for Iran suspending uranium enrichment and returning to talks on broader U.N. inspections.
Vaeedi says Iran needs more time to look over that proposal, as he says it is a very important matter, and the government wants to maximize its chances for success.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he will take until mid-August to respond to the plan. President Bush would prefer an answer before next month's summit of leading industrialized nations in St. Petersburg, Russia.
White House spokesman Tony Snow says Iran should be able to assess the plan before then, but as it is a multilateral offer, it is not up to President Bush alone to decide when Iran should respond.
"The president would like them to respond tomorrow, if the answer were 'yes' and they were ready to suspend enrichment and reprocessing activities," he said.
Snow says President Bush discussed the issue during talks in Europe this past week, and all involved in making the offer agreed that Iran should respond in weeks not months.
To ensure that the answer they receive is the considered response of the Iranian government, Snow says, they have asked Tehran to pass on its decision through European Union Secretary General Javier Solana.
Iran says it is enriching uranium for the peaceful civilian purpose of generating electricity. President Bush and European allies believe Iran is secretly developing a nuclear weapon.