anti iran 298.88.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
After discussing the Iranian nuclear program with his Persian counterpart on Saturday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that the two sides "are at a decisive phase: either the conflict goes on or we seize the chance and the way to comprehensive cooperation with Iran."
He added that he expected an answer from Iran "as soon as possible."
During the discussions, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Steinmeier agreed that Iran would meet again with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana to go over the offer. Steinmeier said he expected the first meeting "in the next week."
In response to Steinmeier's assertion that Iran risked isolation if it did not return to the negotiation table, Mottaki suggested Teheran had the support of Muslim nations and therefore there will be "no isolation for the Islamic Republic of Iran."
"The opinions of other countries are of course important, but in the end it comes down to you," Steinmeier replied.
Mottaki said on Saturday that Iran saw "positive points" but also had "questions" about a package of incentives offered to Teheran in a bid to persuade it to give up enriching uranium.
"We had constructive talks," Mottaki said. "The offer package is at the moment being reviewed by Iran."
"We have seen positive points in the package and parallel to that there are also things that are unclear and we will have questions about that," he said. His comments echoed similar statements made earlier this month by Iran's deputy foreign minister, Said Abbas Irakchi.
He did not elaborate further on the timeline during the news conference, where no questions were allowed, saying only that "immediately after the review of this offer we will let our European partners know."
The offer by the U.N. Security Council's five permanent members and Germany seeks to persuade Iran to suspend uranium enrichment in return for incentives, including a US offer to provide Iran with peaceful nuclear technology, lift some sanctions and join direct negotiations with Teheran.
The US and its allies suspect that Iran's nuclear enrichment activities are a cover for a weapons program.
Iran insists its nuclear program is limited to peaceful energy uses. Still, two weeks ago, its defense minister warned that it would use nuclear means to defend itself if attacked. Enrichment can produce fissile material for a warhead or fuel for a nuclear reactor.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said his country will take until mid-August to respond to the proposal. US President George W. Bush has accused Iran of dragging its feet.
Security was extremely tight for the meeting. Police kept some 30 Iranian dissidents from the National Council of Resistance of Iran, who were protesting the visit, well away, but their chants of "No talks with the mullahs" and "Mottaki must go" could still be heard in the back garden of the government villa where the press conference was held.
One of their banners said "No nukes for the mullahs."