BERLIN – Germany said Friday it hopes Iran will respond soon to incentives to halt its nuclear program, suggesting that the Islamic republic's foreign minister could set a date at weekend talks in Berlin.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said his country would take until mid-August to respond to the proposal by the United States and Germany and four other nations. President Bush has accused Iran of dragging its feet.
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger did not respond directly when asked about the timeline, but told reporters: "We hope that Iran answers soon."
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was expected in Berlin on Saturday for talks with his German counterpart.
"Perhaps we will hear from the Iranian side on this occasion a more exact specification of when it plans to react to this offer," Jaeger said.
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 U.S. offer to provide Iran with peaceful nuclear technology, lift some sanctions and join direct negotiations with Tehran.
The U.S. 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.
Enrichment can produce fissile material for a warhead or fuel for a nuclear reactor.
Iran has consistently refused to freeze enrichment as a precondition for talks. Its deputy nuclear negotiator reiterated that stance in Vienna on Thursday — though he said he was speaking as an individual and not for his government.
"Iran considers the suspension of uranium enrichment to be neither a precondition for talks nor a result of the talks," Javad Vaeidi, deputy head of Iran's National Security Council, said in a speech, according to a translated transcript.
Vaeidi made his comments at an event affiliated with Austria's right-wing Freedom Party. A German copy of the speech was made available to participants afterward.
"We're not as stupid so as to go after a nuclear bomb," Vaeidi said. He said Iran was asking for more time to look over the proposed incentives.
"It's a very important matter, we are undertaking serious considerations," he said.
Meanwhile, former U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix urged the United States to show more patience in negotiations with Iran. Blix, who spoke at a conference on nuclear nonproliferation in Moscow, said there had been "good progress" and lauded the United States for agreeing to take part in negotiations.
He said Iran may be worried about its security given the large number of American troops in Iraq, and suggested talks with the U.S. should also include the issue of Iran's security.