Mbeki delivers Iran nuclear message to G8

Group of Eight (G8) leaders have been told Iran is seriously considering a package of incentives aimed at getting it to halt its nuclear programme, South African President Thabo Mbeki said on Monday.

Mbeki, whose Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, visited Iran last week, said he passed on that message during his meetings with G8 leaders in the Russian Federation. An Iranian foreign ministry official had made similar comments to reporters on Sunday, but Mbeki’s briefing took the communications to a higher level.

“We have today in our interactions with the G8 communicated the essential message from the Iranians,” Mbeki said in an interview with foreign reporters. “It is that they believe this proposal is important, it constitutes an important starting point with regard to the negotiating process which everybody agrees needs to take place, and therefore that they are considering the matter seriously.”

The package offered by the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany last month includes economic incentives and a provision for the US to offer Iran some nuclear technology, lift some sanctions and join direct negotiations.
The key demand of the six is that Iran stop enriching uranium during any negotiations.

Their proposal also calls for Iran to impose a long-term moratorium on uranium enrichment—which can produce civilian reactor fuel or fissile bomb material.

Iran, facing United Nations Security Council sanction, has said it will formally respond in late August. Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters in Tehran on Sunday that the proposals were an “acceptable basis” for talks, and that Iran was ready for detailed negotiations.

Frustrated world powers agreed on Wednesday to send Iran to the UN Security Council for possible punishment, saying Tehran had given no sign it would bargain in earnest over its nuclear ambitions.

The US and some of its allies accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons. Tehran has denied the charges, saying its programme is aimed at making electricity, not bombs.

South Africa built six nuclear weapons and partially assembled a seventh between the 1970s and 1993, and then renounced nuclear weapons and dismantled its arsenal. That history gives it moral authority in the debate over disarmament, and it also is a powerful advocate for the right of developing countries to have access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.—Sapa-AP

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