The United States says Iran has had plenty of time to consider the nuclear offer by major powers, and that an answer is needed by next week. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed the issue by telephone Wednesday with her foreign minister colleagues from the permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany.
The United States has set no absolute deadline for an Iranian reply. But it is growing impatient over Iran's failure to provide a firm answer to the big-power proposal that it end uranium enrichment in return for various incentives, or face punitive action.
The five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany formally handed the so-called carrots and sticks offer to Iran in early June, with the understanding that Tehran had weeks, not months, to respond.
But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said an answer might not come until after mid-August, and a critical meeting between Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and European Union chief diplomat Javiet Solana has been postponed.
U.S. officials have said they want an Iranian reply before the P5+1 hold a special foreign ministers meeting in Paris July 12, a prelude to the big-power summit in St. Petersburg, Russia the following weekend.
At a joint press appearance here with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the international community requires an answer and that delaying tactics will not succeed.
"If indeed Iran is trying to stall, it's not going to work," said Condoleezza Rice. "The international community has said that we need to get an answer, an indication of where Iran is going with this. We need to know if the path of negotiations is open or not. It is really incumbent on Iran now to take what is a very good offer and respond to it."
Rice later held a telephone conference call with her P5+1colleagues. A senior official gave no details of the discussion. But he said the six powers have a united front despite Iranian efforts to find gaps and drive wedges among them.
He said they expect the Larijani-Solana meeting to occur before the Paris meeting next Wednesday. But he said that even if it doesn't, Rice and her colleagues will assess what they have heard from Iran and suggest a course of united action for the St. Petersburg summit.
Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said earlier this week said if Iran fails to accept the offer, the P5+1 would probably consider action in the U.N. Security Council.
U.S. officials have said they would pursue sanctions starting with travel and financial penalties targeted against the Iranian leadership.
They have said if sanctions are unattainable in the Security Council, they could still be imposed collectively by like-minded countries.
If it accepts the six-power offer, suspends enrichment and returns to nuclear negotiations, Iran would reap political and economic benefits including assistance for its civilian nuclear program.
Iran has insisted its nuclear efforts are entirely peaceful but the United States and some European allies believe Iran has a covert nuclear weapons program.
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