Washington - A new proposal to get the ball rolling in discussions with Iran about its uranium enrichment activities appeared to involve a combination of tit-for-tat moves as a show of good faith in the stalemated talks.
Over the past days, Western diplomats have told British journalists and CNN that the proposal, sent to Tehran by the European Union's top diplomat Javier Solana last month, would have Iran freeze its current level of enrichment capacity for a certain time period during which the European Union would refrain from floating new sanctions.
CNN indicated the period would be six weeks.
The reports were the latest signs of a thaw in the crisis. Despite three sets of United Nations sanctions, Iran has refused to suspend its uranium enrichment.
To date, the UN Security Council permanent members and Germany have insisted Iran shut down enrichment before restarting formal talks - a condition repeated in the updated June 14 proposal delivered to Tehran.
Iran responded as late as Thursday that it would not suspend its enrichment programme, but did not address the idea of freezing the programme at its current level.
The new proposal out of Europe would mean that Iran could not install any new centrifuges used in enrichment, a step that can produce weapons-grade fuel, for the interim period.
On Wednesday, Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran was open to discussing a new package of incentives, and said a tit- for-tat option that has been discussed in diplomatic circles could "give us time to move along that path and to find that path."
Iran has yet to formally respond to the newest package of incentives, but is expected to do so next week.
On Thursday, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack acknowledged only that there was a "refreshed, enhanced" proposal before the Iranians, which had the backing of the Security Council's five permanent members and Germany. The Iranians had yet to respond to the proposal.
But the US remained steadfast that the six countries would not resume full negotiations, or halt council talks on new sanctions, until Iran suspended its enrichment activities.
"The bottom line is, in order to get to those full-blown negotiations where you have the US and the other five members ... present at the table with the Iranians, they're going to have to suspend their enrichment-related activity," he said.
"And of course there would be a suspension of activities in the Security Council during that."
McCormack left open whether more limited, EU-led negotiations could take place without that full suspension by Iran.
"There is a proposal that is before the Iranians. It is agreed upon by the P-5- plus-1. It was refreshed, enhanced if you will. But it was built on a foundation that had been previously agreed upon by the P-5-plus-1, conveyed to the Iranians, which the Iranians rejected.
"Now we're at a point where that refreshed proposal is before the Iranians. They've indicated that they're going to give a response to that proposal in the near future." (dpa)
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