TEHERAN (AP) - Iran will make a counteroffer in response to a Western incentive package aimed at persuading Teheran to suspend uranium enrichment, the country's foreign minister said Saturday.
The counteroffer may be a variation of the proposal made by Europe, the United States, China and Russia, or it could be an entirely new package, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, according to the state-run news agency IRNA.
"We hope that Iran's real proposal, which might come within a modified or new package, will be examined carefully by Europe," he said.
Mottaki did not elaborate on how the Iranian proposal may differ from the Western package.
"We intend to take steps toward a comprehensive understanding that considers the rights of one side, Iran, and resolves the concerns of the other side at the same time," Mottaki said. "Iran has begun examination of the European package and it will officially response to the European side."
Meanwhile, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Supreme National Security Council head Ali Larijani, briefed Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Teheran's position on the proposal during talks in Cairo, a statement from the Egyptian side said. Larijani and Abul Gheit were to meet again Sunday, it said.
The package put forward by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany aims to restart negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. It included significant concessions by the United States aimed at enticing Teheran to freeze enrichment.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who presented the offer to Teheran, said he expected a reply within "weeks."
On Friday, a powerful hard-line cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, came out against the Western incentive package, reflecting conservative pressure on the government to reject the offer.
"It's not good for Iran," Jannati said in his Friday prayer sermon, telling worshipers that the West has "no choice but to accept" an Iranian enrichment program.
Jannati is the head of the powerful Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog that arbitrates between the parliament and the government. He holds considerable influence, but ultimate say in state matters lies with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has sometimes overruled hard-liners on the nuclear issue.