TEHRAN, Iran – Iran finds parts of a Western incentives package aimed at persuading the country to suspend its uranium enrichment program acceptable, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Sunday.
"We started studying the package from the same hour it was presented to us. We should evaluate it. There are points which are acceptable. There are points which are ambiguous, and there are points that we believe should be strengthened," Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.
He insisted Iran was not stalling by taking time to respond to the package, presented to Iran last week.
"We will give our views in response to the package and we will offer our proposals," he said.
The Bush administration has said Iran will have weeks, not months, to decide whether to accept the Western proposals or face the prospect of penalties.
"No deadline has been given. A deadline doesn't exist," Asefi said, adding that Iran "is not seeking to buy time."
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Saturday that Iran would make a counteroffer in response to the incentives package put forward by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany. The package aims to restart negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
The counteroffer may be a variation of the proposal or an entirely new package, Mottaki said. He did not elaborate on how the Iranian proposal might differ from the Western package.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, briefed Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Tehran's position on the proposal during talks in Cairo on Saturday, a statement from the Egyptian side said. Larijani and Abul Gheit were to meet again Sunday, it said.
The incentives package included some significant concessions by Washington aimed at enticing Tehran to freeze enrichment. The United States would provide Iran with peaceful nuclear technology, lift some sanctions and join direct negotiations with Tehran.
The package also pulls back from demands that Iran outright scrap its enrichment program as an initial condition for negotiations, seeking a suspension instead. However, it also contains the implicit threat of U.N. sanctions if Iran remains defiant.
Iran has consistently refused to give up enrichment, a process that can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or the material for a nuclear warhead. Iran insists its program is peaceful and that it has the right to develop enrichment — though it has signaled it might compromise on large-scale enrichment.
On Friday, a powerful hard-line cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, came out against the Western incentive package, reflecting pressure from conservatives on the government to reject the offer.
Jannati is the head of the powerful Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog arbitrating between the parliament and the government. He holds considerable influence, but the ultimate power in state matters lies with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has sometimes overruled hard-liners on the nuclear issue.