U.S. seeks 'serious' response from Iran on nuclear program
American IAEA envoy: Tehran near or in possession of enough uranium to produce one nuclear bomb.
The United States hopes Iran's proposals for resolving its dispute with the West over its nuclear program will be constructive and intends to study them carefully, the U.S. envoy to the UN said on Wednesday.
"We hope that what is contained in that response is a serious, substantive and constructive response to the P5 + 1 proposal," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters after a meeting of the UN Security Council. "We will study the content carefully."
The "P5 +1" refers to the five permanent Security Council members and Germany, which have offered Iran a package of economic and political incentives in exchange for a suspension of Tehran's nuclear enrichment program.
Earlier Wednesday, the U.S. said it has serious concerns that Iran is deliberately trying to preserve a nuclear weapons option, urging Tehran to join in fresh talks with key allies about its disputed nuclear intentions.
Glyn Davies, Washington's chief envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, also warned that the latest report by the nuclear watchdog shows that Tehran is either very near or already in possession of sufficient low-enriched uranium to produce one nuclear weapon, if the decision were made to further enrich it to weapons-grade.
"This ongoing enrichment activity ... moves Iran closer to a dangerous and destabilizing possible breakout capacity," Davies told the agency's 35-nation board of governor.
"Taken in connection with Iran's refusal to engage with the IAEA regarding its past nuclear warhead-related work, we have serious concerns that Iran is deliberately attempting, at a minimum, to preserve a nuclear weapons option," Davies said.
"The latest agency report describes how Iran now has, at a minimum, 1,430 kilograms of low-enriched uranium hexafluoride," he added.
Iran insists its program is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity. But the United States and important allies contend it is covertly trying to build a bomb.
Iran countered by reiterating it was ready to clear up questions.
"Regarding Iran's nuclear issue, if there are any questions or ambiguities, we are well prepared to remove ambiguities in the context of the IAEA," Tehran's envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters.
But in a statement to the board earlier, Soltanieh said it should be recalled that the agency has been faced with continuous false and forged allegations by the U.S. - a reference to unspecified intelligence and other evidence allegedly recovered from a laptop computer that reportedly was smuggled out of Iran and provided to the watchdog by Washington.
"I remind that the international community is carefully monitoring the attitude and conducts of the new U.S. administration," Soltanieh said.
"The world is observing curiously whether or not this administration follows the same trend and policy as the Bush administration - pursuing hostile political confrontation, using fabricated baseless allegation."
President Barack Obama and European allies have given Iran until the end of September to take up an offer of nuclear talks with six world powers and trade incentives should it suspend uranium enrichment activities. If not, Iran could face harsher punitive sanctions.
On Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country will neither halt uranium enrichment nor negotiate over its nuclear rights but is ready to sit and talk with world powers over global challenges.
In Vienna, Davies stressed that Iran - in contrast to its claims - is far from addressing all of the IAEA's concerns.
"We, as members of the board, have a responsibility to demand that the [IAEA] secretariat's questions are answered and to ensure that we can obtain confidence in the peaceful intent of the Iranian nuclear program," Davies said. "When a state such as Iran continues to violate its obligations, we must respond."
But Davies also said the U.S. welcomes constructive, honest engagement with Iran to resolve the issue and added he hoped that Tehran will take immediate steps to restore international trust and confidence.
"This is a fresh, new opportunity for Iran to turn the page, come back to the negotiating table and prove that it is a responsible, trustworthy member of the international community," Davies said.
"The pathway to a negotiated solution remains on the table for Iran, and we continue to call on Iran's leaders to demonstrate genuine commitment to peace and security in the Middle East and to the international nonproliferation regime".
Britain, France and Germany joined Washington's call, urging Iran to engage in meaningful negotiations aimed at achieving a comprehensive diplomatic solution to the international standoff over its disputed nuclear program.
The three major European powers said it was inexcusable that Iran continues to refuse any degree of transparency or cooperation in clarifying outstanding issues and that it's current attitude further reinforces doubts about its endeavor.
"Iran should make use of the window of opportunity provided now," said the joint statement, delivered by German envoy Ruediger Luedeking. "We have extended a hand and we appeal to Iran to take it."
On Monday, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, said his watchdog was locked in a stalemate with Iran and urged Tehran to substantively re-engage with the Vienna-based organization to prove there are no military dimensions to its nuclear program.