October 23, 2009 / 6:28 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. still hopes Iran will accept nuclear deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States still hopes Iran will respond positively next week to a U.N.-backed deal on nuclear fuel supply, but won’t wait forever for a response, the U.S. State Department said on Friday.

Hours after Tehran ignored a Friday deadline to deliver its formal response to the proposal to the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said “our patience is not limitless.”

“We hope that they will next week provide a positive response,” Kelly told a news briefing, adding that “obviously we would have preferred to have a response today. We approach this with a sense of urgency.”

“We can stretch things for a few days, and that’s really what we’re talking about. But we’re not going to wait forever,” he added.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had set a Friday deadline for Iran to respond to the proposal, but Tehran said it needed until the middle of next week to provide its full response. Iran told the U.N. nuclear watchdog it is favorably examining a plan for it to cut an atomic stockpile the West fears could be used for weapons.

Kelly said Washington was still looking at a possible follow-up meeting with the other countries negotiating over Iran’s nuclear program — Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany — and Iranian negotiators by the end of October, but that no firm details had been set.

He added the proposed nuclear fuel deal and a scheduled weekend IAEA inspection of an Iranian nuclear site were both opportunities for Tehran to address fears that its nuclear program could be geared toward producing weapons.

Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Andrew Quinn; editing by Anthony Boadle

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