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An Answer Needed From Iran

The six countries known as the P-5 plus 1 are awaiting an answer from the Iranian government over its nuclear program. The U.S., Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany have offered Iran a package of political, economic, and trade incentives, along with assistance with civilian nuclear energy, if Iran agrees to verifiably suspend its uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. Those are the activities that can lead to a nuclear weapon, and the U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran stop all such work.

A meeting with representatives of the seven countries involved took place in Geneva on July 19th, when Iran was expected to reply to the offer. That meeting proved inconclusive. Iran was given an additional two weeks to reply to the offer.

In a recent television interview with NBC news, Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadinejad said he is looking for "common ground" with the P-5 + 1 countries. But that assertion was undercut by his recent claim that Iran has expanded the number of uranium-enriching centrifuges it has built to six-thousand.

U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos says:

"What we've seen is a couple of different commentaries coming out of Iran. ... We feel there is an internal dialogue going on about this. That there are different voices that we are hearing from Iran that are discussing ... where the Iranians are on this issue. What we haven't seen is a clear statement which we are looking for at the end of the two weeks. So that's what we're waiting for."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that the presence of U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns at the table in Geneva on July 19th showed how seriously the United States supports the proposal offered to Iran. "The strategy is to get Iran to accept the package or to have great enough unity in the P-5+1 to bring consequences if they don't," said Secretary of State Rice. "And accepting the package means suspending enrichment and reprocessing and negotiating with us."