Oil Report

Major powers hold conference call on Iran response

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senior officials from world powers held a conference call on Monday to discuss Iran’s response to a package of incentives to curb its nuclear activities, said the U.S. State Department.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said political directors from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia -- as well as Germany spoke via telephone on Monday.

“We are consulting with our partners in the P5+1 (permanent five U.N. Security Council members plus Germany) on issues related to that response and what we might hear and what we have heard thus far,” he told reporters of the conference call.

The major powers offered Iran a revised package of incentives last month and said Tehran must suspend its uranium enrichment work before formal talks could start on the package, which includes help to develop a civilian nuclear program.

So far the Iranian government’s formal response to the latest offer has not been made public and there have been mixed signals in statements by its senior officials.

“There is clearly a debate, or at least a discussion, within the Iranian government on how to respond,” said McCormack.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday his country would not stop enriching uranium and rejected as “illegitimate” a demand by major powers that it do so.

By contrast, Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki spoke during the weekend of a “new environment” for diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear program.

The offer of trade and other incentives was presented last month by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

Solana told reporters in Paris on Monday he hoped to meet Jalili later this month to discuss the formal written response provided by Iran last week.

The United States and other major powers suspect that Iran’s sensitive nuclear work is aimed at building an atomic bomb. Iran strongly denies this and says its uranium enrichment is for peaceful power generation purposes.

Reporting by Sue Pleming and Arshad Mohammed; editing by David Wiessler