August 24, 2006

Germany joins U.S. in saying Iran reply not enough

By Louis Charbonneau

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany added European weight to U.S.
displeasure with Iran's reply to proposals by world powers in a
nuclear standoff, saying on Thursday Tehran's insistence on
enriching uranium hindered a negotiated solution.

Two Iranian academics, one of whom has had close ties to
the government, listed questions they said Iran had posed about
what it saw as vagueness in an offer from six big powers of
trade and technology incentives to stop nuclear fuel work.

They said Iran's response was moderate in tone and the West
should engage it rather than rush to sanctions after an August
31 deadline given Iran by the U.N. Security Council to suspend
uranium enrichment activity.

But, in a bid to expose Iranian bad faith, opposition
exiles said Tehran was building advanced centrifuge enrichment
machines that could greatly speed up its output of nuclear

The exile group, the France-based National Council of
Resistance of Iran (NCRI), has reported accurately on secret
Iranian nuclear activity before. Tehran has denied its claims.

In a television interview, German Chancellor Angela Merkel
said Iran's answer to the incentives package 2 1/2 months after
it was presented was unsatisfactory.

"From everything I hear, we cannot be satisfied with it.
What we expected is not stated there, namely: 'We will suspend
our uranium enrichment and come to the negotiating table'," she
told Germany's N24 television.

"The decisive sentence is missing and this needs to be

Germany is in the sextet of powers that offered the
package, along with the United States, Britain, France, Russia
and China.

Washington said on Wednesday Iran's response "falls short"
of the Security Council precondition of a verifiable halt to
enrichment before talks to implement the incentives, but did
not reject it outright and said it would be reviewed further.

Germany's stance was significant as it is seen as the
Western power least keen to resort to sanctions.

"We continue to urge Iran to change its position on
suspension before August 31 to allow negotiations to resume and
remove the need for further action in the Council," said a
diplomat with one of the three EU nations in the group of six.

The Security Council passed a legally binding resolution on
July 31 telling Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment
programme within 30 days or risk punitive sanctions.


Iran, with the world's second largest oil and gas reserves,
says it is enriching uranium as an alternative energy source it
will need in the future. The West suspects Iran, which calls
for Israel's destruction, really wants to make atomic bombs.

Iranian academics Abbas Maleki and Kaveh Afrasiabi said the
21-page response asks for a timeline to implement the
incentives and specifics on possible security arrangements for
the Islamic Republic, which fears U.S. attack to impose "regime

"Iran also seeks clarity on the status of (existing) U.S.
sanctions that prohibit offers of nuclear and technology
assistance to Iran -- is the U.S. willing to lift some if not
all of those sanctions?" Maleki and Afrasiabi said.

They urged the major powers not to dismiss Iran's reply.

"By agreeing to put the issue of suspension on the table
and commence talks immediately, Iran has sent a strong signal
that the internal debate between power centers in Iran's
leadership has ended in favor of voices of moderation seeking a
mutually satisfactory resolution of the nuclear standoff," they

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani was quoted by
the official IRNA news agency as saying the reply was aimed at
"removing all the concerns of the other party and, at the same
time, preserving Iran's right."

U.S. ambassador to the IAEA Gregory Schulte, speaking in
South Africa, said he had been briefed on the Iranian response.

"One of the requirements ... is suspension. And to date we
haven't seen that," he said. "We need a clear concrete signal
from Iran's leaders that they're serious, that they're not

Analysts say Iran's complex and nuanced answer was probably
meant to drive a wedge between Security Council members Russia
and China, major trade partners with Tehran, and the United
States, Britain and France, which have mooted tough sanctions.

All five have a veto on the foremost world security body.

The exiled NCRI said Iran had built at least 15 advanced
P-2 centrifuges and would have hundreds more ready next year.

It was not immediately possible to verify the NCRI account.

Iran enriched uranium at its pilot nuclear fuel plant in
April for the first time, using a network of 164 older, less
sophisticated P-1 centrifuges, which spin at supersonic speeds
to heighten the fissile element in uranium ore.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also announced then that Iran
was researching P-2s, which can purify uranium for use as power
plant fuel or atomic bombs 2-3 times faster than the P-1 model.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has been probing the
origin and extent of secret nuclear activity in Iran since

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei will certify to the Security
Council on August 31 whether Iran has stopped enrichment or

(Additional reporting by Anna Willard in Paris, Mark
Heinrich in Vienna, Edmund Blair in Tehran and Andrew Quinn in