BERLIN – Iran's foreign minister said he had "constructive talks" with his German counterpart Saturday but gave no indication of when Tehran would respond to international incentives to halt its nuclear program.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after meeting with Manouchehr Mottaki that Iran and the international community "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 Iran's answer on the international incentives "as soon as possible."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said his country would take until mid-August to respond to the proposal by the United States, Germany and four other nations. President Bush has accused Iran of dragging its feet.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said after meeting Mottaki this week that he believed Iran's answer could come after a meeting of the world's eight industrialized democracies ends July 17.
Mottaki did not elaborate on the timeline at the press conference, where no questions were allowed, saying only that "immediately after the review of this offer we will let our European partners know."
Mottaki said Iran saw "positive points" but also had "questions" about incentives offered to Tehran in a bid to persuade it to give up enriching uranium, a process that can produce fuel for a nuclear reactor or fissile material for a bomb.
"We had constructive talks," Mottaki said. "The offer package is at the moment being reviewed by Iran. We see positive points in the package and parallel to that there are also things that are unclear and we will have questions about that."
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."
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 United States and its allies suspect that Iran's nuclear enrichment activities are a cover for a weapons program. Iran insists its nuclear program is meant to generate electricity.
In response to Steinmeier's assertion that Iran risked isolation if it did not return to the negotiating table, Mottaki suggested Tehran 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.
Security for the meeting was extremely tight, with journalists made to meet hours in advance at the Foreign Ministry for checks, then bused to the villa in an upscale neighborhood in the capital.
Police kept away some 30 Iranian dissidents from the National Council of Resistance of Iran who were protesting the visit, but their chants of "No talks with the mullahs!" and "Mottaki must go!" were heard in the back garden where the press conference was held.
One of their banners read: "No nukes for the mullahs."