UPDATE 3-Iran says will offer nuclear package to West soon

Wed Apr 15, 2009 6:42pm BST

* President says package "respects rights of all nations"

* U.S. says will look at any new package

(Adds U.S. comment, paragraphs 8-10)

By Hashem Kalantari

TEHRAN, April 15 (Reuters) - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday Iran had prepared proposals to end a stalemate over its nuclear ambitions with six world powers, state television reported.

"We have prepared a package that can be the basis to resolve Iran's nuclear problem. It will be offered to the West soon," Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech in the southeastern province of Kerman.

The United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain said last week they would ask European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana to invite Iran to a meeting to find "a diplomatic solution to this critical issue".

It marked a significant shift in U.S. policy under President Barack Obama, whose predecessor George W. Bush shunned direct talks with Tehran as long as it pressed ahead with uranium enrichment that the West fears is meant to yield atomic bombs.

Iran welcomed on Monday a "constructive" dialogue with the six world powers, in the clearest Iranian signal yet it would accept an invitation for talks on its disputed nuclear activity.

Ahmadinejad did not give details of the new package, but said the world could not be ruled by "using force".

"This new package will ensure peace and justice for the world. It respects rights of all nations," he said.

In Washington the State Department said the United States was prepared to meet Iran without preconditions but made clear suspension of uranium enrichment was the goal.

"If they come up with some new package with regard to their nuclear program, we'll have to take a look and see what it is," a spokesman said.

"Our hope will be that it addresses all of the concerns that the United States and other countries have about Iran's nuclear activities."

PREVIOUS OFFERS WENT NOWHERE

It was unclear whether Iran's counter-offer would be essentially different from previous ill-fated exchanges.

The six world powers originally offered Iran economic and political incentives in 2006 to suspend enrichment. Iran's response hinted at some flexibility but ruled out suspension as a precondition for talks as stipulated by the powers.

Last June the six improved the offer while retaining the precondition. In reply, Iran said it wanted to negotiate a broader peace and security deal and rejected any "condescending" formula to shelve its nuclear programme.

Western officials said Iran's second response endorsed talks for talks' sake and was useless because it again sidestepped the suspension issue. They felt Iran was trying to buy time to expand and make irreversible its nuclear programme.

The New York Times reported on Monday that the Obama administration and its European allies are considering dropping a long-standing U.S. demand that Iran shut down its nuclear facilities as a precondition for full negotiations.

An Iranian official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters on Wednesday that "suspension is out of the question" but that Iran did want to get talks rolling with major powers.

"Eventually Iran may agree to accept the (U.N. nuclear watchdog's) Additional Protocol," the official said.

The protocol, which expands on the basic nuclear safeguards accords many countries have with the International Atomic Energy Agency, permits short-notice IAEA inspections beyond declared nuclear sites, to help verify no covert activity is going on.

Iran stopped voluntarily implementing the Additional Protocol in 2006 in retaliation for initial U.N. sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.

While seeking to engage Iran, the Obama administration has also warned of moves to impose tougher sanctions if Tehran keeps defying United Nations demands to halt sensitive nuclear work.

Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil producer, says its nuclear programme is aimed at generating electricity. It has repeatedly ruled out halting its uranium enrichment campaign.

Underlining Iran's intention to continue with its nuclear drive despite Western pressure, Ahmadinejad on April 9 inaugurated its first nuclear fuel fabrication plant and said the country had now mastered the entire fuel cycle. (Writing by Parisa Hafezi, additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington, edited by Mark Heinrich and Richard Meares)

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