The US insists on a ‘weekend’ deadline for NPT signatory Iran to reply to an incentives package for suspending its nuclear program.
As a sign of commitment to diplomacy, Washington took part in a July 19 meeting between Iran and the five permanent members of the UNSC plus Germany when the incentive package was discussed.
Despite being advertised by various US officials as a ‘U-turn’ policy toward Tehran, Washington’s commitment to negotiations was a ‘one-time’ offer limited to ‘listening’ rather than ‘contributing’.
After the talks, the Bush administration gave Iran two weeks to respond to the ‘freeze or freeze’ proposal under which Iran would have to freeze the expansion of its enrichment program for six weeks and the US would, in return, freeze lobbying for more anti-Iran sanctions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Thursday that no deadline had been set during a meeting with P5+1 official in Tehran, adding that any ultimatum would damage the ongoing talks.
The US State Department later on Thursday retracted the two-week deadline when spokesman Sean McCormack implicitly denied setting a time limit for the offer.
“I didn’t count the days. It’s coming up soon,” McCormack said Thursday when asked if August 2, Saturday, was the deadline for Iran to give its answer.
However, in a Friday press conference, the State Department’s acting spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said Washington expects ‘a response this weekend’.
“They were given two weeks. The two weeks is up this weekend,” AFP quoted him as saying.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino later on Friday warned Iran it would face new sanctions should the country reject the offer.
“Negative consequences await if they do not have a positive response to our very generous incentives package, and that would possible come in the form of sanctions,” she said.
While the UN nuclear watchdog declared there is no link between the use of nuclear material and the ‘alleged studies’ of weaponization attributed to Iran, Washington accuses Tehran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of pursuing a military nuclear program.
Under US pressure, the UN Security Council has intervened in the nuclear case and has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran that according to the International Atomic Energy Agency is enriching uranium to 3 percent, which is completely consistent with the development of a power plant.