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Iran Says It Won't Halt Nuclear Work

ALI AKBAR DAREINI | July 5, 2008 10:42 PM EST | AP

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President Bush boards Marine One as he leaves the White House Saturday, July 5, 2008, in Washington on his way to the Group of Eight (G-8) summit in Toyako, on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Disputes over global warming, worries about soaring oil prices and uncertainty about Iran and North Korea's nuclear ambitions pose daunting challenges for Bush when he sits down with presidents and prime ministers Monday. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran indicated Saturday that it has no plans to meet a key Western demand that it stop enriching uranium, a day after Tehran sent the European Union a response to an international offer of incentives for halting enrichment.

The content of that response has not been made public and there was caution about the prospects of progress.

"It was not something that made us jump up and down for joy," said one European official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was confidential. "We are in a holding mode until we get a chance to look at it more closely."

White House press secretary Dana Perino told reporters traveling with President Bush en route to a G-8 summit in Japan that the U.S. administration was still evaluating Iran's response.

"We're going out to consult with our allies about what Iran's response means," Perino said. "We'll just have to see how this is received by others before we make a formal response."

A positive response could open the way to renewed negotiations that might help cool recent sharp exchanges between officials on both sides. In recent weeks the U.S. and Iran have traded threats and warnings over possible American or Israeli military action.

But Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham insisted Tehran would not change the central part of its controversial program. Uranium enrichment can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or the material for a warhead. Iran insists its enrichment work is intended to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that would generate electricity.

"Iran's stand regarding its peaceful nuclear program has not changed," Elham told reporters. He said Iran was ready to negotiate on its program "within the framework of the international rules and regulations."

He did not elaborate. But Iranian state media reported Friday that EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, have agreed to hold the latest in a series of talks in the second half of July.

The European official, however, said no firm decision will be made by Solana to meet with Jalili until the contents of the Iranian response had been evaluated.

Iran's ambassador to Belgium presented the response to the incentives package to Solana in Brussels, Iranian state media reported Friday. European officials said they were studying the Iranian response and were consulting among themselves and with the United States, Russia and China on what to do next.

Acting on behalf of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, Solana offered the modified package of economic incentives to Iran during his June visit to the country. The offer is meant to persuade Iran to halt enrichment, which the six world powers fear Iran could use to produce weapons.

Iran has repeatedly insisted it will not give up enrichment, but it had said the incentives package had some "common ground" with Tehran's own proposals for a resolution to the standoff.

Separately, EU nations also approved new sanctions against Iran in June, imposing additional financial and travel restrictions on a list of Iranian companies and experts, including the country's largest bank.

The six nations _ the U.S., China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany _ first offered a package of economic, technological and political incentives to Tehran nearly two years ago on condition that it suspend enrichment.

The standoff has led to increasingly tense exchanges about the possibility of a military strike by Israel or the U.S. An Israeli military exercise last month was seen as a warning to Iran.

The commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards has said that Iran would consider any military action against its nuclear facilities as the beginning of a war. However, the general also has said he thinks a strike by Iran's adversaries is unlikely.

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Associated Press Writer George Jahn contributed to this report from Vienna, Austria.

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