US presses Iran for response on nuclear offer

BRUSSELS, June 30, 2006 (AFP) – The United States "expects" Iran to respond next week to an international offer to defuse the nuclear standoff between Tehran and the West, the number three in the US State Department said Friday.

US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said he hopes for the response at a meeting between European Union foreign policy Javier Solana and Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani in Brussels next Wednesday.

"We expect and hope Larijani will give us the answer to the offer we made," the US official told a small group of reporters in the Belgian capital. "We fully expect Mr. Larijani to come up with a response."

"We’ve seen lots of political statements from lots of political figures. We are waiting for the authoritative channel which is the Larijani channel to Solana," he added.

Solana on June 6 handed Iran the proposal from the five permanent UN Security Council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany.

It promises incentives and multilateral talks if Iran agrees to temporarily halt uranium enrichment, something Tehran has so far refused to do.

Diplomats say Iran was asked to reply by June 29, but President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last week Tehran would take until August 22 to answer.

The US official noted that the international community is "unified" around the offer to Tehran. "We all believe that negotiations make sense and that Iran should accept the offer," he said.

"It’s now up to Iran to decide. It’s high time frankly that we had a response from the Iranian government."