Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said a "new process" was underway in the five-year nuclear crisis with the West after the delivery of a proposal by world powers to Tehran, media reported Wednesday, June 3.
A proposal handed to Iran by the 5+1 countries has been welcomed by Tehran
"A process is underway and it started with the package delivered by Iran," Mottaki said in an interview with US media in New York, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. "This package tackled important questions and then on the other side the world powers offered their own package," he said.
Six world powers last month presented Iran with a proposal aimed at ending the crisis, offering technological incentives in exchange for Tehran suspending uranium enrichment, which the West fears could be used to make an atomic bomb.
Iran's own package is a more all-embracing effort to solve global problems and notably suggests the setting up of a consortium in Iran for enriching uranium.
According to IRNA, Mottaki was asked about the question of suspending uranium enrichment. But he refrained from giving any direct comment on the subject.
Mottaki said talks with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who presented the package in Tehran last month, were "respectful and a bit different from the past".
"We are studying it (the package) with a constructive regard," he said.
There has been speculation in the Western media in recent days that Tehran has been adopting a softer line in the stand-off and may be prepared to offer concessions to break the deadlock.
Softer tone in Iran's favor
Ayatollah Khamenei says it is in Iran's interests to accept
The foreign policy advisor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday it would be in Iran's interest to accept the package and warned against provocative remarks that could destabilize the situation.
"Those who are agitating against our interests want that we reject the offer. As a consequence, it is in our interests to accept it," Ali Akbar Velayati told the hard-line Jomhouri Eslami newspaper in an interview.
However no Iranian official has suggested in the past months that Tehran is ready to give any ground on the key question of enrichment, which Iran must suspend in order to enter the talks offered by the world powers.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had repeatedly vowed that Iran will never suspend enrichment and Khamenei himself has said many times over the past years that Tehran will not back down in the stand-off.
Iran insists its atomic drive is entirely peaceful and it needs nuclear energy for a growing population whose fossil fuels will eventually run out.
A nuclear Iran would be the biggest danger of next decade
Larijani (center) pushes for greater power for parliament
The United States and its regional ally Israel have never ruled out military strikes to end what they see as Tehran's defiance, and speculation of an attack mounted last month after it emerged Israel had carried out practice runs.
Russia, which has always insisted the crisis should be solved through diplomacy, issued a stark warning about the dangers of a military strike.
"All this is very dangerous. If force is used it will be catastrophic for the whole Middle East," a Russian foreign ministry official told journalists on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, a top aide of Democratic White House candidate Barack Obama said the senator believes a nuclear-armed Iran would be the world's biggest threat in the next years.
"The most dangerous crisis we are going to face potentially in the next three to 10 years is if the Iranians get on the edge of developing a nuclear weapon," Obama's senior foreign policy adviser Anthony Lake told the Financial Times.
On Tuesday the Fars news agency reported that Iran's conservative-controlled parliament warned it would reduce nuclear cooperation if any new sanctions were imposed over the country's atomic drive.
New sanctions would cause Iran to retreat from talks
Bush has said that the military option is still on the table
"(The 5+1 countries) should know that they cannot go anywhere by adopting resolutions and sanctions. It rather leads us to make such decisions like we did when we quit the additional protocol," the news agency quoted a statement signed by 201 of parliament's 287 MPs as saying.
Iran in February 2006 ended voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty that allowed for short notice inspections of nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
That move came after Tehran was referred to the UN Security Council over its nuclear drive.
The existing sanctions against Tehran aim to force it to halt uranium enrichment over fears the process could be used to make a nuclear weapon.
Iran has vowed not to stop enriching uranium, saying it has every right to the full nuclear fuel cycle for what it insists is an entirely peaceful drive for atomic energy.
Iran's new parliament -- headed by the former top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani as speaker -- has been seeking to play a stronger role in the atomic crisis than the previous chamber.
Shortly after his election as the new parliament's speaker in late May, Larijani warned the UN nuclear watchdog against playing for time in the dispute.