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WH encouraged by Iran taking offer seriously

Written by: Staff

Roswell, June 6: The White House said today it was heartened Iran was taking seriously proposals from six world powers meant to curb its nuclear program, but insisted Iran must suspend uranium enrichment activities.

Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani described the package of incentives and penalties as positive but said it contained ''ambiguities'' that should be removed. He was given the proposals by European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana in Tehran.

White House spokesman Tony Snow declined to discuss Larijani's comments on the package, agreed last week by the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

''I think at this point the Iranians are now just beginning to have a glance at the incentives and disincentives packages that have been offered them, and I would expect there to be a series of comments and characterizations over the next few days,'' Snow said, adding: ''It's obvious and I think it is heartening that they will be taking them seriously.'' ''I would repeat the central point which is, if the Iranians agree to suspend enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, then we'll be able to discuss more openly what the incentives are and we certainly hope that that's the case,'' he told reporters traveling with President George W. Bush.

The proposals, which have not been made public, seek to persuade Iran to give up enriching uranium, which the West worries will be used to build atomic bombs. Tehran says its nuclear aims are purely civilian.

The United States said last week it would join European-led talks with Tehran, but gave as a condition that Iran suspend uranium enrichment.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he hoped the Iranians would respond positively to the proposal and reiterated the U.S. view that this response should be within weeks rather than months.

McCormack would not provide details of the package, but told a news briefing: ''It presents the Iranian government with a very clear voice on both sides of the road here -- pathway of negotiation, pathway of increased isolation.'' Pressed on why details were being kept secret, McCormack said this was to give the Iranians time to respond without facing a public debate over the package.

''The diplomacy, I would say, is at a sensitive stage,'' said McCormack, adding, ''We want to give them a little bit of space to consider what's in the package, both on the positive as well as the negative side.''


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