08/23/2006, 00.00
IRAN – UNITED NATIONS
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Tehran open to "dialogue", mum on uranium enrichment

Iran's reply to the offer made by the 5+1 group is taking the wind out of the UN ultimatum. As the international community splits over the issue, Tehran carries out a new round of military exercises.

 

Tehran (AsiaNews) – The international community is divided more than ever as how to respond to Iran's counterproposals to UN demands with regards to its nuclear programme after Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani delivered to the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany (5+1) his country's response to the package of economic incentives offered in exchange for an end to its uranium enrichment programme.

In his meeting with the diplomatic envoys of Great Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and Switzerland (who represents US interests in the absence of diplomatic relations between the two countries) Larijiani said that Iran was ready for serious talks with the 5+1 group.

Tehran's response came after several postponements and is close to the deadline of August 31 set by the United Nations for an agreement to end its uranium enrichment programme.

What is in Larijiani's reply is still unknown and it is still unclear whether Iran is going to accept the UN deadline, but all indications suggest that it won't.

The Islamic Republic's supreme spiritual and political leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has already gone on record saying that Iran was determined to press ahead with its nuclear programme despite possible Security Council's vetoes.

The package offered by the 5+1 group contained economic incentives, including delivery of a light-water reactor and the long-term provision of nuclear fuel, in return for the suspension of uranium enrichment by Iran. It also acknowledged Iran's right to pursue nuclear technology but demands that it stop enriching uranium fearing that it might use it to make its own atomic bombs which it might sell to other countries in the region. In fact, it was Tehran's feet dragging on the issue that pushed the Security Council to set the August 31 deadline.

Tehran's willingness to talk seems however to have taken the urgency out of the Western ultimatum. Security Council members are divided. China has called for calm, patience and flexibility. Russia remains opposed to sanctions after August 31, whilst the United States said it will study Iran's proposals but is prepared to adopt new resolutions if they do not meet the Security Council's requests.

In the meantime, Tehran continues its military exercises, the second of the summer. Starting in Sistan–Baluchistan province, they will eventually include other 15 provinces over the next five weeks.

Last week-end, during the battle drills, the Iranian military test-fired ten surface-to-surface Saegheh missiles, which have a range of 75-225 kilometres (50-150 miles).

Brigadier General Mohammad Hassan Dadras, commander of Iranian ground forces, said that no air force in the region would be capable of confronting the Iranian army.

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