Bloomberg: The U.S. will “wait a while” for Iran to respond to incentives to abandon any nuclear weapons development, said U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, declining to specify what repercussions might follow. June 3 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. will “wait a while” for Iran to respond to incentives to abandon any nuclear weapons development, said U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, declining to specify what repercussions might follow.
“Why don’t we wait a while and see what happens,” Rumsfeld said in an interview after giving a speech in Singapore today. Asked what action the U.S. is considering if Iran fails to respond, Rumsfeld said U.S. President George W. Bush had made his plans “clear” to Iran. “I don’t see any reason to speculate,” he added.
Iran must respond “within weeks” to an international offer of incentives to abandon any nuclear weapons development, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said his nation stands firm in seeking nuclear energy.
“They can stop the enrichment activity for “technical” reasons, which they may need to do anyway,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow for non-proliferation at the London- based International Institute for Strategic Studies. “Then it will be up to the U.S. if that is a good enough basis on which to hold multilateral talks.”
The package of incentives, from the U.S., China, Russia, the U.K., France and Germany, wasn’t made public. It was agreed on during a meeting of top diplomats from the six nations in Vienna this week.
The offer gives Iran, holder of the world’s second-largest oil and natural gas reserves, a chance to avoid sanctions from the United Nations Security Council, said U.K. Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett yesterday, who spoke on behalf of the six governments. All except Germany hold vetoes on the council.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in Tehran today that Iran would welcome unconditional talks with the U.S. and the other nations that made the proposal, Associated Press reported. Mottaki told a press conference that a breakthrough was possible, “if there is goodwill,” according to AP.
Rumsfeld, replying to questions from delegates at an Asian security summit today, called Iran “one of the leading terrorist nations in the world.”
Iran, led by President Ahmadinejad, has a “long” history of “being engaged in terrorist activism,” he said.
Ahmadinejad has been invited to attend a summit in Shanghai this month at which the Russian and Chinese leaders will be present. Ahmadinejad was invited to the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which consists of Russia, China and a group of Central Asian nations, as an observer, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in May.
Rumsfeld said today that it would be “strange” and “unusual” for Iran to join the group, given the country’s history of supporting terrorism.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday that the development suggested Russia and China “have reminded the West of their combined influence on world-turning events.” Lee was addressing Rumsfeld and other regional defense ministers.
An Iranian nuclear official said yesterday that the country would not bend to demands that it abandon its push to enrich uranium for fission. “We will accept no limitations in regards to our enrichment,” Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization, told Iran’s student news agency.
Ahmadinejad, while not referring directly to the Vienna offer, said yesterday in Tehran that his government had given “maximum” cooperation to UN nuclear inspectors, according to the official Iranian news agency. Ahmadinejad said opposition to Iran’s nuclear program from Western governments was motivated by concern about access to the technology for the world’s “independent states,” not about nuclear weapons.
U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte told the British Broadcasting Corp. yesterday that the U.S. estimates Iran could have atomic weapons within five to 10 years. “They are determined to develop nuclear weapons,” he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Rice has described the package of incentives and punitive actions as “robust” and suggested she was ready to meet with her Iranian counterpart if Iran agrees to suspend enrichment.