(photo credit: Associated Press)
Iran announced Thursday it would reply to the Western incentives on its nuclear program on Aug. 22, the first time it has given a precise date after weeks of being accused of stalling.
The statement by the Supreme National Security Council suggested Iran was likely to reject the main point of the West's proposals, the imposition of a long-term moratorium on uranium enrichment.
The statement said Iran "has made plans to produce part of its nuclear fuel needs inside the country and is making efforts to meet its required fuel," a process that entails enriching uranium for use in nuclear reactors.
The council also warned that Iran would retaliate if the world tried to punish it over its nuclear program.
"In case the path of confrontation is chosen instead of the path of dialogue ... and Iran's definite rights are threatened, then there will be no option for Iran but to reconsider its nuclear policies," the council said.
The statement did not spell out what reconsideration would mean, but Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and stop cooperating with UN nuclear inspectors.
The Supreme National Security Council insisted that Iran wanted to avoid a showdown.
"Iran is not after tension, but if others push things toward tension and create problems, then all will face problems," it said in the statement. "Iran believes dialogue is the most logical solution. It is serious in this path. We want the other side to return to the negotiating table."
The statement accused the United States of hindering a solution, blaming it for the decision to refer Iran back to the Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions on the country.
"The United States, by changing the path of talks toward Security Council, is trying to create obstacles," the statement said.
Initially, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would respond to the package in mid-August, but later Tehran pushed it back to late August. Thursday's statement was the first time a specific date was set.