U.S. urges Iran to accept nuclear deal

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Goncharov) - High-level international talks over Tehran's disputed nuclear program ended inconclusively on July 19.

The talks in Geneva focused on an updated package of incentives offered by the six world powers to Tehran in order to breathe life into the deadlocked talks.

Iran faces the following alternative: It must cooperate with advanced nuclear powers offering such cooperation; or it would inevitably face all-out political isolation.

Commenting on the results of the Solana-Jalili talks, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: "We hope the Iranian people understand that their leaders need to make a choice between cooperation, which would bring benefits to all, and confrontation, which can only lead to further isolation."

"It was a constructive meeting, but still we did not get an answer to our questions. We hope very much we get the answer and we hope it will be done in a couple of weeks," Solana told a news conference.

The UN Security Council pinned high hopes on a package of incentives virtually offering the required amount of enriched uranium and state-of-the-art technology to Iran. Drafted in early May and officially presented to Tehran on June 14, the package suggested that Iran get a temporary reprieve from economic and financial sanctions in exchange for freezing its enrichment activities.

The concerned parties which are used to Iranian negotiating tactics were not surprised after receiving no response from Tehran. However, the latest package of incentives falls short only of a hypothetical UN Security Council resolution that would allow Tehran to develop its own atomic bomb.

Still, everyone was waiting for the Iranian response because Tehran had more than enough time to study the Iran Six's proposals.

As the talks approached, the EU unilaterally froze the assets of the National Bank of Iran and declared additional sanctions against some Iranian officials linked with the country's missile and nuclear programs. Brussels made it clear that the EU wanted Tehran to engage in constructive negotiations.

President Ahmadenijad, a staunch advocate of the uranium-enrichment program, reportedly no longer has any say in nuclear matters, while Washington delegated Ambassador Burns to the talks in Geneva.

The talks were significant because it was the first time that a senior U.S. diplomat joined other envoys in meeting with the top Iranian nuclear negotiator. The shift in Bush administration policy is intended to help lead to a breakthrough in the impasse over the Iranian program. But, if Tehran fails to respond positively, this would only unify the international coalition dealing with Iran.

When his turn to speak arose, Ambassador Burns delivered a clear message: The United States is serious in its support for the package Mr. Solana conveyed in Tehran last month, is serious in its support of P5 + 1 unity, and the United States with its P1+5 partners, is serious that Iran must suspend uranium enrichment to continue any negotiations involving the United States.

In other words, no other package of incentives is forthcoming.

Ambassador Burns' presence at the talks implied that Washington was heeding the Russian stand. Mr. Burns, who served as U.S. Ambassador in Moscow in 2005-2008, repeatedly met with Russian experts on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and knows the Russian position that the Iranian nuclear program must be linked with the need to preserve the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The U.S. State Department's official statement is, in effect, an ultimatum to Tehran. Washington's patience has run out, and other members of the Iran Six coalition are also feeling restive.

It appears that all the parties at the talks have directly or indirectly agreed with this ultimatum. This prompted U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to ask the UN Security Council to pass another resolution on Iran and to toughen sanctions against Iran in case of Tehran's negative reply. Washington plans to launch this process in September.

Tehran has remained silent thus far because it probably did not expect this. The Iranian online media have only noted the sides' agreement to meet in two weeks. According to Jalili and Ahmadinejad, this is a step forward.

The Iranian side still declines to comment on the uranium enrichment issue which, as Jalili told journalists, was not even discussed in Geneva.

Tehran, which must choose between cooperation and confrontation, has probably taken the first step in the right direction.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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