Brussels and Washington appeared to stiffen their common stance on the Iranian nuclear issue after a senior-level meeting in Vienna, just as rumors of the latest Iranian position were emerging.
EU and U.S. officials have hinted that they wanted Tehran to reply by the end of June, ahead of a Group of Eight (G8) meeting of industrialized countries on June 28-30.
U.S. President George W. Bush, in Vienna for the meeting with EU leaders, responded coolly to reports that Tehran would take two months to present its response.
"It seems like an awful long time for a reasonable answer, for a reasonable proposal -- a long time for an answer," Bush said. "We look forward to working with our partners. We just got word of this [Iranian] statement as we walked in here, but it shouldn't take the Iranians that long to analyze what is a reasonable deal."
Bush added that "we'll come to the table when they verifiably suspend. Period."
Austrian Chancellor and meeting host Wolfgang Schuessel, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, appeared to signal frustration with Iranian brinksmanship.
"This [incentives package] is the carrot," Schuessel said simply, "Take it."
The package was agreed by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) plus Germany.
It was reportedly delivered to Iranian officials by EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana on June 6, and Solana said he had "constructive" telephone talks with Iranian officials on June 14.
(compiled from agency reports)
Economic sanctions could further undermine Iran's already shaky economy (Fars)
MOVING TOWARD SANCTIONS: If the United Nations Security Council imposes sanctions on Iran, domestic support for Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad will wane, according to ALEX VATANKA, Eurasia editor for Jane's Information Group.
Vatanka told a February 24 RFE/RL briefing that "economic sanctions will hurt the average Iranian" and, consequently, many "will blame the ruling clerics" for making life difficult and "impairing the country's long term development."
Vatanka said sanctions would be a serious challenge to the Iranian government. If harsh economic sanctions were imposed, Iran's poorest population will be hurt the hardest -- and might react "as they did in the 1970s and protest in the streets." Sanctions on travel, Vatanka said, would hurt a many Iranians because "Iran is a nation of small traders" who depend on the ability to travel to earn an income. According to Vatanka, unemployment in Iran is estimated at 30 percent, "so small trading is essential to survival." Although current U.S. sanctions "haven't worked," he said, "Iranians fear an oil embargo." He stressed that "oil revenues are a major part of the economy, so it is critical to look at this sector."
Should negotiations with the European Union and the UN fail, Vatanka believes that Iran would follow a "North Korea model," since Ahmadinejad's base of support among the "Islamist militias" has been "urging withdrawal from the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]." The Iranian government's "tactic" so far, Vatanka said, is governed by the belief that "by shouting the loudest, you'll get concessions [from the West]."
Listen to the complete panel discussion (about 60 minutes):
THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's coverage of the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.
CHRONOLOGY An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.