Iran has until July to consider atomic offer: Austria

Fri Jun 9, 2006 8:13am ET

BERLIN (Reuters) - Iran has until the Group of Eight (G8) summit in mid-July to consider an offer of incentives to suspend its nuclear enrichment program, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel was quoted as saying on Friday.

Asked what would happen if Iran did not accept the offer, Schuessel, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "This will be discussed within the framework of the G8. Iran has until the world economic summit in July to think it over."

His comments represent the first clear deadline for Iran to respond to the offer, prepared by Germany, France and Britain and backed by the EU, United States, Russia and China. The G8 summit will be held in St. Petersburg, Russia on July 15-17.

An EU diplomat told Reuters that the 25-nation bloc's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, who brought the offer to Iran earlier this week, did not set any deadline for a response.

But European and U.S. officials have made it clear they would not wait months for an Iranian response to the offer of civilian nuclear technology, security guarantees and other benefits if Iran freezes nuclear fuel production.

It also threatens Iran with economic and political sanctions if it rejects the offer.

Tehran says it wants only to produce low-enriched uranium to generate electricity. But many countries suspect Iran, the world's fourth-biggest oil producer, seeks to purify uranium to the extremely high levels needed to fuel atomic weapons.

Schuessel said that it was important to think of Iran in terms of a larger context and not to focus on the idea of preventing a single country from developing atomic weapons.

"It's not just a question of Iran, but a host of other countries which stand on the threshold of a nuclear technology that can ultimately lead to nuclear weapons -- 10 countries and Iran is the first," he said.