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Page last updated at 16:48 GMT, Tuesday, 5 August 2008 17:48 UK

Iran ambiguous on nuclear offer

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator said Tehran would respond on Tuesday

Iran has sent a message to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, but not a response to the latest proposals on its nuclear programme, officials have said.

A source within the Iranian Supreme National Security Council told the AFP news agency that the message was "not Iran's response to the six countries".

On Monday, the US and UK said Iran faced further sanctions if it did not respond positively to the proposals.

The move follows "inconclusive" talks between the EU and Tehran.

Mr Solana had given Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, until last Saturday to respond to an offer not to impose further economic sanctions in return for a freeze on its uranium enrichment programme.

Mr Jalili said Iran would issue a formal written response on Tuesday.

The Iranian government insists its nuclear programme is for entirely peaceful purposes, while the US and its allies believe it could be used to develop nuclear weapons.

'Not an answer'

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council - China, France, Russia, the UK and US - along with Germany tabled the latest proposal to Iran in June in an effort to persuade it to freeze uranium enrichment as an initial step in starting talks on a longer-term deal.

'FREEZE-FOR-FREEZE' OFFER
Iran suspends its nuclear activities including the installation of any new centrifuges
At same time the six world powers refrain from any new Security Council resolution on sanctions
Talks can then start on long-term deal on recognising Iran's right to develop nuclear energy for civilian purposes, and lifting of sanctions

The Iranian response is "not an answer to the offered package", another Iranian official told the Reuters news agency.

"The letter does not mention the freeze-for-freeze issue," he said.

Hours later, Mr Solana's office said the EU had received the letter and it would be studied, without giving any detail about its contents.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says that what Iran has written matters because it will determine how far Russia and China are willing to support additional UN Security Council sanctions.

A US state department spokesman said the group of six world powers had already agreed they would have no choice but to take further measures if a positive response was not forthcoming.

The UK meanwhile said it would back more sanctions if Iran failed to give an "unambiguous response".

But our correspondent says the Iranians have clearly made a judgement that despite all the talk of potential air strikes against its nuclear facilities, the US presidential campaign, Israel's political uncertainty and high oil prices mean that a crisis is not imminent.



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