As observers have expected all along, the St. Petersburg G8 summit in mid-July is shaping up as a decision point in the confrontation Western powers are engineering with Iran. -- Although Iran's president promised a response to the P5+1 offer by Aug. 22, diplomatic officials are now saying Iran will be expected to indicate its response to the offer at a Jul. 5 meeting between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.[1] -- The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that a meeting of P5+1 foreign ministers (U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany) to assess the Iranian response will take place on Jul. 12, probably in Paris.[2] -- James Gerstenzang and David Holley also reported that "Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki swiftly rejected the demand to respond by July 5." -- Neither article mentions that the U.S. and Europe had announced today (Jun. 29) as a deadline; this date was dropped, however, because of a lack of support from Russia and China....


Middle East & Africa

In depth

By Neil Buckley (Moscow) and Daniel Dombey (London)

Financial Times (UK)
June 29, 2006

The Group of Eight industrialized nations on Thursday gave Iran a deadline of next week to provide a clear answer to an international offer to resolve tensions over its controversial nuclear program.

Such a schedule would give negotiators time to assess Tehran's response before the G8 summit in St Petersburg in mid-July.

Foreign ministers from the G8 countries meeting in Moscow confirmed that Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy representative, would meet Ali Larijani, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, on July 5.

Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, and the U.S. have offered to begin negotiations with Iran on a package of incentives -- if Iran suspends uranium enrichment, a process that can produce both nuclear fuel and weapons-grade material.

While Iran insists its purposes are purely peaceful, the U.S. and the EU fear it is moving closer to getting nuclear weapons.

"We are disappointed in the absence of an official Iranian response to this positive proposal," the G8 ministers said in a statement yesterday. "We expect to hear a clear and substantive Iranian response" in the meeting on July 5," they added.

China's foreign ministry also urged Iran to respond as soon as possible to the proposal. Ministers did not say what the consequences would be if Iran rejected the offer, with diplomats saying it was "too early for ultimatums."

Diplomats said foreign ministers from the six main negotiating countries would meet on July 12 to review Iran's reaction, three days before heads of state and government gather at the St. Petersburg summit.

Margaret Beckett, the British foreign secretary, told reporters after the meeting that there was frustration over the slowness of Iran's response. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last week that Tehran would respond to the proposals by August 22.

"Iran has been made a very fair offer, a very major offer, which if what she seeks is access to civil nuclear power should certainly be of great interest to her. And that is a very deliberate decision by [international negotiators] to give Iran really good reasons to pursue the path of negotiations," she said.


World news

By James Gerstenzang and David Holley

Los Angeles Times
June 29, 2006,0,40374.story?coll=la-home-world

MOSCOW -- The United States, Russia, and other key industrialized countries today increased the pressure on Iran over its nuclear program, declaring that Tehran's intentions will be judged based on its response next week to a proposal intended to put the program under international control.

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, is scheduled to meet Wednesday with Javiar Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, and senior diplomats from Russia, Britain, France, and Germany, to discuss the offer.

"We expect to hear a clear and substantive Iranian response to these proposals" at the meeting, foreign ministers from the Group of 8 industrial nations said in a statement issued after their meeting here.

Seeking to keep up the pressure on Iran to deliver a serious response rather than one that stalls for time, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States, Russia, China, France, and Britain -- and Germany agreed to meet one week later to assess the Iranian position.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the foreign ministers of the other five nations will meet, most likely in Paris, on July 12. That session would occur just three days before a summit of President Bush and other leaders from the Group of 8 in St. Petersburg, Russia, at which Iran's nuclear program is expected to be the central topic.

Those two meetings could make an initial determination about whether Iran was moving toward cooperation or defiance, even if Tehran tries to avoid giving a formal answer before then.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki swiftly rejected the demand to respond by July 5, telling reporters at the United Nations that the talks with Solana needed to address questions about the proposal.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is seriously and carefully reviewing the proposed package," he said. "I've said that such response will be in August."

Bush had earlier set an informal deadline, calling for Iran to respond within "weeks, not months" to the written package of incentives, and orally presented "disincentives."

Full details of the proposal have not been released, but among the incentives offered was a guarantee that the United States would facilitate a European offer to provide Iran with a light-water reactor and other civilian nuclear technology. Much of the light-water nuclear technology originates in the United States, and without American government approval, the Europeans could not provide it to Iran.

The offer is intended to lead Iran back from what Washington believes is a program intended to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran argues that its program is intended only to develop nuclear energy.

The European Union presented the proposals on behalf of the others on June 6. The United States is not taking part because it is refusing to have direct contact with Iran until it suspends enrichment of uranium, a process that can produce either nuclear fuel or material for nuclear weapons.

In the statement issued at the end of today's meeting, the foreign ministers from eight nations said they remained committed to a diplomatic solution and that they had been "disappointed" by Iran's failure to respond by now.

The meeting on July 5, they said, should "bring these discussions to a rapid conclusion."

If an agreement is not reached, Iran faces the possibility of U.N. sanctions, which would be intended to restrict its economic development. Russia and China, which both wield veto power on the Security Council, have resisted the idea of sanctions.

Asked whether the package of "disincentives" faced by Iran includes sanctions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov replied: "We did not discuss anything beyond the offer which we all made in good faith to Iran, which is a positive offer, and we expect a positive official specific response to this."

A senior Bush administration official said Rice suggested the July 12 follow-up meeting as a way to put added pressure on Iran, to make it clear that the others would not wait long to take action if they are not satisfied with the response.

He spoke on the condition that his name not be disclosed because he was talking about diplomatic discussions. The official said that there was no tension between Rice and Lavrov, who disagree on, among other topics, whether the former Soviet republic of Belarus is moving sufficiently toward democracy. The United States is seeking wider adherence to democratic principles there.

"There was no friction whatsoever," he said.

However, there were suggestions of edgy negotiations during a luncheon meeting on Iraq. The words of Rice and Lavrov were picked up in an audio feed that had not been disconnected.

At one point, Lavrov appeared to be explaining drafted language for a statement touching on Iraq. Rice interrupted him, saying, "I'm always a little bit sensitive about this on behalf of the Iraqis. Here we sit in Moscow or in Washington or in Paris telling them to make efforts on national accords when their brothers and sisters are being killed -- I just think it's gratuitous."

"Fine," Lavrov said, adding, "Let's support what Condi suggested."

They also appeared to disagree on a statement that condemned the "barbarian killing" of five Russian diplomats in Iraq. The statement said: "This tragic event underlines the importance of improving security for all in Iraq." It did not specify the need to protect diplomats, which Lavrov had sought.

"Sergei," Rice was overheard saying, "there is a need for improvement of security in Iraq, period. The problem isn't diplomatic missions. The problem is journalists and civilian contractors and, yes, diplomats as well.

"The problem is you have a terrorist insurgent population that is wreaking havoc on a hapless Iraqi civilian population that is trying to fight back, and on a coalition force that is trying to fight back," she added, "and the implication that by somehow declaring that diplomats need to be protected, it will get better, I think, is simply not right."