AFP: Iran on Tuesday again ignored calls to give a final answer to a package presented by world powers to end the nuclear standoff, prompting calls for new sanctions to punish its defiance.
TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran on Tuesday again ignored calls to give a final answer to a package presented by world powers to end the nuclear standoff, prompting calls for new sanctions to punish its defiance.
Six weeks after it was first presented, world powers have yet to receive a clear response from Tehran to their offer. Western countries had said Tuesday was the final day for Iran to give a clear answer.
The United States said that world powers would discuss their next move on Wednesday and indicated that Tehran faced a fourth set of UN Security Council sanctions if it failed to give a positive response.
A source with Iran's Supreme National Security Council told AFP that a message had been handed over Tuesday to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who has been leading negotiations on behalf of world powers.
But the source, who asked not to be identified, confirmed tthat he message did not contain the final response that world powers had been awaiting.
"The message delivered today is not Iran's response to the six countries," the source said.
Furthermore, another source from the Iranian national security council said the message no more than a transcript of a telephone conversation between Solana and Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili on Monday.
"What was given to Solana was the telephone conversation transcript and not a response to the proposed package," the source told the official IRNA news agency.
Adding to the confusion, a source close to Solana said that "for the time being we have not received anything" from Tehran and emphasised there was often a time lag between Iranian announcements and the actual delivery.
The six world powers had offered Iran negotiations on a package of technological incentives if it suspends the sensitive process of uranium enrichment, which the West fears could be used to make nuclear weapons.
The United States said Iran faced "additional measures" if it did not respond clearly, indicating it risked further UN Security Council sanctions.
"If we are not going to receive a clear response, a clear message from them, we are going to have no choice but to pursue additional measures," US State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said.
Negotiators from the six powers — United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — have scheduled a conference call for tomorrow, the spokesman said.
"So first we will see what happens with the rest of the day that is left in Europe, and then they will have their call tomorrow. We will see where we go from there," he added.
Along with the threat of further sanctions, Washington has warned that the option of military action against Iran remains open if Tehran sticks to its defiant line.
Amid the continued tensions, Iran said on Monday it had successfully test-fired an anti-ship missile with a range of 300 kilometres (180 miles) that would allow it to close the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and Oman.
"No enemy vessels would be able to escape it," the commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said on state television.
"Given the equipment our armed forces have, an indefinite blockade of the Strait of Hormuz would be very easy," Jafari said.
OPEC member Iran is the world's fourth-biggest crude oil producer and traders fear supply disruption from the Islamic republic if tension is further heightened.
However world oil prices — which have been driven to record levels by worries over a possible military strike on Iran — slumped beneath 119 dollars a barrel on US economic news.
Tehran has steadfastly refused to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, which it says are only aimed at producing fuel for nuclear power for a growing population.
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi dismissed the idea of a deadline as "media speculation" and insisted that negotiations were an "ongoing process".