EU's Solana to visit Iran over atomic issue, Tehran says

TEHRAN - European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana will visit Tehran shortly to discuss details of a package aimed at persuading the Islamic republic to abandon its nuclear fuel programme, a senior Iranian official has said.

Solana delivered the package, which is backed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, in a visit to Tehran earlier this month. He has said he will hold further discussions over what Iran has described as "ambiguities".

"Solana's visit to Iran is imminent. We will discuss the offered package," Ali Larijani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying after meeting visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.

Larijani did not specify the timing of Solana's visit and reiterated that any talks must be "without preconditions".

Iran has repeatedly said it would consider incentives but insisted the crux of the package - that Iran must give up uranium enrichment - was unacceptable.

"Iran is seriously considering the package ... We will give an answer to the proposed package in the earliest time," Larijani said.

The United States, Britain, Germany and France have made it clear they want an answer from Iran by the July 15-17 summit of the Group of Eight (G8) nations in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last week Tehran would reply to the proposal by Aug. 22, prompting US President George W. Bush to accuse Tehran of dragging its feet.

Ahmadinejad reiterated on Sunday that Iran was assessing the offer with a "positive manner".

"... by the end of (the Persian month of) Mordad we will announce our view about the package," IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying during his meeting with the Turkish foreign minister.

The month of Mordad in the Iranian calendar ends on August 22.

Western nations suspect Iran of trying to make atomic bombs. Iran says it only wants to make atomic fuel for power stations.

"This issue can only be resolved through talks. But we want negotiations without preconditions," Larijani said.

In exchange for an enrichment suspension, the six countries have agreed to halt work on a resolution that would open the door to political and economic sanctions.

- REUTERS

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