Big powers to consider Iran's response to the offer
Washington, July 4 : Representatives of the five permanent UN Security Council member countries and Germany will meet in Europe next week to consider Iran's response, if any, to their offer of incentives for Tehran to end uranium enrichment.
The major powers have called for an answer to the initiative by tomorrow.
The State Department's third-ranking official Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicolas Burns said the so-called P Five Plus One will meet in Europe on July 12, and if the Iranians have not agreed by then to suspend sensitive nuclear activities the major powers will consider punitive action.
Mr Burns confirmed the meeting plans in an interview with the US public television channel C-SPAN to be broadcast next weekend.
He gave no venue for the meeting, bringing together Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her counterparts from Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, but other officials have cited Paris as a possible site.
At a meeting in Moscow last week, Ms Rice and other ministers of the G-8 group of industrial powers asked Iran to respond to the nuclear offer by July 5, though Mr Burns' remarks suggest that the July 12 meeting is now the de-facto deadline for an Iranian reply.
Iran was formally presented with a package of proposals from the P Five Plus One on June 6, offering it political and economic incentives in return for halting uranium enrichment and related activity and returning to negotiations over its nuclear programme.
The Tehran government has said it is considering the offer but has rejected deadlines for an answer, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying recently a response would not come until late August.
In his comments to the C-SPAN network, Mr Burns said if there is no Iranian action by July 12, it would face enormous pressure from the international community. Mr Burns would not say if he thought Moscow and Beijing were any closer to the US position on punitive steps than they were two months ago.
Mr Burns said in reply to a question that Iran may not provide an unequivocal answer and give a counter-proposal. But he said the United States and its partners are not interested in negotiations and that Washington will not sit down at the bargaining table with Tehran until it meets the condition of suspending uranium enrichment-related activities.