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EU’s Solana urges swift Iranian response to nuclear offer

The quicker Iran responds to an offer from world powers aimed at resolving the nuclear standoff the better, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said yesterday.
Solana, who made the cooperation offer to Iranian leaders on Saturday, said that so far there had been no response from Tehran to the initiative from the group of six — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.
"They took the offer. It was a good meeting, they are going to give an answer (and) the sooner the better," he told reporters as he arrived for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.
"The meeting went better than I had expected," he added.
The deal offers talks on a package of technological and economic incentives, so long as Tehran suspends uranium enrichment activities, which the West fears the Islamic republic might use to make an atomic bomb.
It recognises Iran's "right to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes" and offers support for the construction of light water reactors, help with supplying nuclear fuel and the normalisation of economic ties with the West.
But barely hours into Solana's visit, Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham announced that Tehran would reject any requirement that it halt uranium enrichment to negotiate, the key sticking point in the crisis.
US President George W. Bush, whose administration has led the campaign against Iran, has made no effort to hide his belief that the package was effectively dead on arrival.
Solana held meetings last week with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and top nuclear envoy Saeed Jalili. Both were keen to emphasise Iran's answer would depend on how the West responds to Tehran's own package.
Iran last month launched a package which it described as an all-embracing attempt to solve the problems of the world, including the nuclear crisis. It suggests setting up consortiums to enrich uranium, including in Iran.
The West wants Iran to halt enrichment over fears it could use the process to make an atomic bomb and the UN Security Council has slapped three sets of sanctions on Tehran for its defiance.
Tehran insists it has every right to enrich uranium to manufacture fuel for future power plants.