Ultimatums do not augur well for talks: Rafsanjani

July 26, 2008 - 0:0

TEHRAN – Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Friday criticized the Western powers for giving Iran an ultimatum to reply to their offer of incentives in return for a freeze on efforts for tougher sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

“We have finally agreed to sit down and negotiate, so what is this about issuing a deadline and ultimatum?” Rafsanjani asked.
Last week Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili held talks in Geneva with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana over ending Iran’s long-running nuclear standoff with the West.
U.S. senior diplomat William Burns attended the talks, which was the first high-ranking meeting between the two countries in 30 years.
Also present were representatives from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.
Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France, and Germany last month offered Iran an updated package of incentives in return for a halt to Tehran’s uranium enrichment program.
The package, which is a follow-up of an original proposal in 2006, offers nuclear cooperation and wider trade in aircraft, energy, high technology, and agriculture.
The Islamic Republic has also presented its own package of proposals on addressing international challenges, including the threat of nuclear proliferation and has said it has found common ground between the two separate packages.
Iran has repeatedly ruled out suspending uranium enrichment as a precondition for talks with the major powers and has said it will hold talks “only on common points”.
After the meeting, some countries within the sextet said Iran had two weeks to reply to the offer to rein in its nuclear work in return for a halt to new steps towards more UN sanctions.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tehran had two weeks to respond seriously to a proposal made by the six powers or face “punitive measures”.
“We have finally agreed to sit down and negotiate, then what is this about issuing a deadline and ultimatum? Let’s give this negotiation a chance with patience and perseverance,” Rafsanjani said in a sermon at Friday prayers.
“Every time the situation (of the nuclear dispute) is about to get better, these Western hardliners and radicals begin diverting attention by various propaganda ploys. This approach shows that some powers cannot bear to see peace in the region,” said the cleric.
Addressing the major powers, Rafsanjani said, “Iran is ready to negotiate. The aim of talks is also clear. You say all countries have the right to utilize peaceful nuclear technology. On the other hand you express concern about the possibility of Iran’s diversion to non-peaceful activities although we have announced that we have no intention of seeking these things.”
He advised the West to end the nuclear standoff through negotiations and to stop inventing pretexts to increase pressure on the Islamic Republic. Referring to a recent military exercise by Israel simulating a strike on Iran, Rafsanjani said, “Staging military maneuvers and holding talks from a distance will not resolve the issues.
“Do not try to invent pretexts. Be patient and let wise people sit down and talk to resolve the problems and secure the region against threats and intimidation,” the EC chairman advised the major powers