Iran says ready to negotiate on nuclear incentives

KAMPALA Thu Jun 19, 2008 3:17pm EDT

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at the opening ceremony of the 29th Annual Session of the OPEC Ministerial Council in Isfahan 450 km (280 miles) south of Tehran June 17, 2008. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubaz

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at the opening ceremony of the 29th Annual Session of the OPEC Ministerial Council in Isfahan 450 km (280 miles) south of Tehran June 17, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Morteza Nikoubaz

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KAMPALA (Reuters) - Iran said on Thursday it was ready to negotiate over a new package of economic incentives put forward by major powers seeking to persuade Tehran to curb its nuclear work.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told a news conference in the Ugandan capital Kampala that the six -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany -- should also take a serious look at Tehran's own proposals.

"We have informed them of our readiness to negotiate. The package given by the P5+1 countries is currently under consideration and at the appropriate time Teheran will give its reactions," said Mottaki, who is in Uganda for a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday accused the six nations of bullying Tehran over its nuclear program and said their efforts would end in disgrace.

After handing over the offers to Iran on Saturday, EU policy chief Javier Solana reaffirmed the six powers wanted Iran to suspend enrichment during talks on the offer -- a precondition the Islamic Republic has repeatedly rejected.

Solana said on Thursday he had yet to receive Iran's formal reply. "For the moment there has not been any reply," Solana told reporters in Brussels.

Iran says it is ready to review the proposals, but Tehran seems in no hurry to respond.

Analysts also believe Tehran is using delaying tactics to press ahead with atomic work. An Iranian official said on Thursday time was on Iran's side.

"We will review the package but not the part about enrichment freeze ... We are moving forward with our work and Iran's nuclear capability is being constantly augmented," said the official, involved in talks with Solana in Tehran.

"Each passing day we are more advanced in nuclear technology, it gives us an upper hand in talks."

A senior Iranian nuclear official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters on Tuesday Iran's answer would not be a straight yes-or-no answer, adding that it would be a "discussable response".

The U.N. Security Council has hit Iran with three rounds of sanctions for refusing to halt its enrichment work, as demanded by the council. Western powers have warned Iran it would face more sanctions if it spurns the offer.

Ahmadinejad said: "The bullying powers have used their capabilities to break the nation's will to obtain nuclear technology ... in our view Iran's nuclear case is closed."

Speaking to clerics in the holy Shi'ite city of Qom, he said: "Recently, they have started a new game ... the result of this game will be disgrace for them."

MOTTAKI CRITICISES AMERICANS

As a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran insists it has the right to master the complete nuclear fuel cycle, including uranium enrichment, for peaceful purposes. It says it wants nuclear power only to generate electricity.

Mottaki said the United States should stop lecturing Iran on its nuclear ambitions. Tehran and Washington cut diplomatic ties shortly after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.

"America is not in the position to be happy or unhappy with our peaceful nuclear activities. It is a country that is currently testing a fifth-generation nuclear bomb," he said.

"America should limit itself to its borders and stop interfering with other nations. The time for ordering other nations is over. We will continue to realize our rights definitely," he added.

The incentives package offers Iran the chance to develop a civilian nuclear program with light water reactors -- seen as harder to divert into bomb-making than the technology Tehran is now developing -- and legally binding fuel supply guarantees.

It also offers trade and other benefits, including the possibility of Iran buying civil aircraft from the West.

The last three resolutions were relatively limited in scope -- including targeting individuals, some firms with military links and several banks. Although analysts say they have had some economic impact, Iran brushes them off and says its windfall oil earnings are cushioning the blow.

(Reporting by Frank Nyakairu and Wangui Kanina; Editing by Charles Dick)

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