BRUSSELS, (Reuters) – The United States rejected on Friday Iranian calls for more time to study an offer of incentives to curb its nuclear activities, insisting Tehran must respond by a G8 deadline next week.
The Group of Eight industrialised nations told Iran on Thursday they wanted a “clear and substantive response” on July 5 to an offer of incentives to stop enriching uranium, but two Iranian officials immediately declared more time was needed.
Speaking to reporters during a trip to Brussels, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns insisted the offer was “very straightforward” and Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Larijani should respond as requested by next Wednesday.
“There will be a meeting here in this city next week, where we expect and hope that Larijani will give us an answer … This is not a complicated offer,” Burns said.
“It is now high time, frankly, that we had a response from the Iranian government … We always said this was a process of weeks not months,” he told a news briefing.
Larijani is due to meet European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Wednesday to discuss the package of trade, technology and other incentives.
In Tehran, influential cleric Ahmad Khatami told worshippers at Friday Prayers that Iran would not discuss “its obvious right to nuclear technology”. But Burns said Western powers were waiting for a formal reply from Larijani.
“We are waiting for the authoritative channel, which is the Larijani channel to Solana,” he said.
G8 foreign ministers meeting in Moscow on Thursday did not say where a negative reply from Iran would lead.
The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, are to discuss Iran’s reaction at a July 12 meeting and Burns said major powers would look to take “essential decisions” at the G8 summit in St Petersburg, Russia, on July 15.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Thursday that Tehran would respond in August and not before to the incentives offer.
“Such a response will be in August. I didn’t say early August or mid-August,” he told a news conference in New York, adding that “questions and ambiguities” in the proposal needed to be cleared up.
Iran had previously said it would respond by Aug. 22.
The United States has accused Iran of having a secret programme to build nuclear weapons. Iran says it wants only to enrich uranium to a level suitable for use in generating electricity.
Burns reiterated that the precondition for Iran receiving any support in building a civilian nuclear programme was that it stops enriching uranium — something Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil exporter, has refused to do so far.