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December 23, 09

NEWS / Deadline for Iranian Response to Nuclear Offer Is Real, U.S. Says

By Stephen Kaufman
Staff Writer

Washington — Iran must live up to its nuclear responsibilities or face new pressure from the international community, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters, adding that the December 31 deadline for its response to a proposed agreement that would allow it to receive enriched uranium for medical use is “very real.”

Speaking in Washington December 22, Gibbs said it is up to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to make the decision on whether to take up the offer that was proposed in October by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The United States and its partners in the P5+1 process — which includes China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and Germany — have been pursuing a two-track approach to use both engagement and pressure in response to Iran’s continued nuclear activities, and U.S. officials have said Iran has so far been unresponsive to engagement efforts.

“Mr. Ahmadinejad may not recognize, for whatever reason, the deadline that looms, but that is a very real deadline for the international community. And I think all of those involved in the P5+1 would encourage Iran to take that deadline as seriously as it’s being taken by us, [and] to live up to their responsibilities,” Gibbs said.

Iran has maintained that its nuclear activities are only for peaceful purposes, yet it has not responded to the IAEA offer, which would have provided it with low-enriched uranium that could be used for civilian, but not military, purposes.

The IAEA offer “clarified for the world what Iran’s intentions were,” Gibbs said.

“Now they have to live up to those responsibilities. And if they fail to do so, the international community will act accordingly.”

At the State Department, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns held a teleconference call December 22 with his counterparts in the P5+1.

P.J. Crowley, the State Department’s assistant secretary of state for public affairs, told reporters the call was made to “touch base before the holidays about the path ahead.”

The P5+1 is collectively “taking stock of Iran’s inability [or] unwillingness to respond to our offer of dialogue and the specific offer regarding the research reactor,” Crowley said December 22.

The offer of engagement with Iran remains, he said. “We have offered Iran an open hand, out of mutual interest and respect, and as [Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton] said, they have really failed to respond meaningfully to that gesture.”

In 2010, “should Iran continue in its current posture,” Crowley said, “there will be implications and consequences for their failure to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Iran’s nuclear activities have already resulted in economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. Crowley said the United States and the other members of the P5+1 will be looking for ways “we can add to that mix and increase the cost to Iran of its inability or unwillingness to resolve the concerns the international community has about its nuclear program.”

There are still “some differences over specific tactics and specific timing” among the group, but he said there is a consensus among them that “the current trajectory” of Iran’s behavior “is of great concern.”

A senior State Department official who asked not to be named said “a number of steps” are being considered by the P5+1 countries, and the members are currently trying to determine their potential impact and how easily they can be enforced.

The official recalled international cooperation earlier in 2009 that led to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874, which imposed sanctions against North Korea for its nuclear and missile tests. “It did take some time to put [that] together,” the official said.

Similarly, with Iran, when the P5+1 reaches a decision, “we want to be sure that there is a broad understanding within those who will play a role in the Security Council as to what we should be doing, and that’s part of what we’re doing now,” the official said.


Tags: secretary of state,


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