Putin Urges Iran to Accept Proposals

Russia's President Vladimir Putin gestures speaking at an annual wide-ranging news conference in the Kremlin in Moscow, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2006. Vladimir Putin on Tuesday defended Russia's place in the Group of Eight leading industrial nations and lashed out at critics who allege Moscow is unfit to chair the organization this year. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday urged Iran to accept an international package of incentives aimed at defusing the standoff over Tehran's nuclear program.

"We would really like our Iranian partners to accept the proposals," said Putin, referring to a package put forward by the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

He added he would like this to happen before next week's Group of Eight industrialized nations summit in Russia but thought this was unlikely.

China also pressed Iran to respond quickly to the package of incentives meant to wean it off enrichment but called on world powers to exercise restraint in the dispute.

"We hope Iran can respond to the package at an early date," said Jiang Yu, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman. "The Iranian issue is at an important stage and the urgent task is to help resume the talks as soon as possible."

Pressure is mounting on Iran to respond positively to the six-power offer, with Western nations threatening to reactivate efforts to punish it through possible U.N. Security Council sanctions unless it suspends uranium enrichment and agrees to talks on its nuclear program.

On Wednesday, senior EU envoy Javier Solana will urge top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani that Iran must accept the terms of the package by July 12, when foreign ministers of the five permanent Security Council nations and Germany consult in Paris, diplomats said.

Russia and China have opposed sanctions against Iran, a major commercial partner for both countries. But Western nations are pushing Moscow and Beijing to support them on U.N. Security Council action — including sanctions — if Tehran refuses the package of incentives.

Iranian officials have said they would not respond to the six-power offer before mid-August, a gambit described by one of the diplomats as an attempt to stall beyond the July 15-17 G-8 summit.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, speaking during a visit to Slovenia, said "there was still no signal from Iran" on the package but added he also hoped a positive response would come ahead of the meeting.

Putin's top foreign policy advisor Sergei Prikhodko said the Iranian nuclear problem would be a key theme for discussion when the leaders of top industrialized nations meet in St. Petersburg but not the dominant issue at the summit.

"We cannot avoid the theme, but I don't think the presidents and prime ministers will focus all their energies only on Iran," he told reporters.

The six powers have insisted that Iran suspend its nascent enrichment activities before talks begin, but Tehran repeatedly has rejected that demand.

The enrichment program can produce fuel for nuclear power plants or material for atomic bombs. Tehran insists its program is for peaceful purposes only.

Possible U.N.-mandated sanctions include a visa ban on government officials, freezing assets, blocking financial transactions by government figures and those involved in the country's nuclear program, an arms embargo and a blockade on the shipping of refined oil products to Iran. Rewards include providing Iran with nuclear expertise and hardware, including reactors.
  • Robb Todd

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