US sceptical of Iranian willingness to compromise
The United States was sceptical Monday that Iran was willing to compromise in the dispute over it nuclear activities, after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said there was an opportunity for "common ground", dpa reported.
Ahmadinejad, in an interview with NBC television Monday, said he has noticed a "new behaviour" from the United States and signalled there could be room to move forward in negotiations based on the incentives package offered by world powers.
"My question is, is such behavior rooted in a new approach, in other words mutual respect, cooperation and justice?" Ahmadinejad said. Or is this approach "a continuation in the confrontation with the Iranian people, but in a new guise?"
The United States noted that Iran has not taken any steps forward and pointed to the comments by Ahmadinejad on Saturday reaffirming the Islamic state's commitment to its uranium enrichment programme.
"I think we have to approach this with a big grain of salt," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. "President Ahmadinejad said one thing to the Iranian people on Saturday and another thing to an American journalist on Monday. So I think that all of us need to consider this with a healthy dose of skepticism."
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has given the Iranian government until Saturday to respond to a package of economic and diplomatic incentives backed by the United States in return for an Iranian pledge to halt uranium enrichment.
"It's very natural in the first steps we are going to negotiate over the common ground as they exist inside the two packages. If the two parties succeed in agreeing over the common ground, that will help us to work on our differences as well, to reach an agreement," he said.
Solana led a delegation representing the five permanent members of the Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - plus Germany at a meeting with the Iranians July 19 in Geneva.
The United States broke with past policy and sent Undersecretary of State William Burns to Geneva in what was the highest level diplomatic meeting between two countries in nearly three decades.
Ahmadinejad said Iran has submitted its own proposal and there was a chance to reach an agreement through negotiations.
Iran did not respond to the incentives package but Solana agreed to give Tehran more time. Iran so far has refused to comply with UN Security Council demands it stop uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran insists it is enriching uranium solely for producing energy. Ahmadinejad said on Saturday that the international community would allow Iran to keep up to 6,000 centrifuges for converting uranium operating at the Natanz plant. That position has not been affirmed by the United States or the Security Council.