VIENNA: A senior Iranian nuclear official signalled Teheran's determination on Friday to press on with its nuclear work, despite facing what Washington called a "moment of truth" over a programme that could produce atomic weapons.
The remarks by Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, suggested Teheran may have already decided to reject offers of incentives and negotiations from six of the world's top powers in return for ending atomic fuel activities.
"Iran is determined to go ahead with its nuclear enrichment work for peaceful purposes," Saeedi told Iran's students' news agency ISNA. "The Iranian nation will not let us give it up."
Iran says it wants to enrich uranium only to the level required for use in atomic power reactors and has no interest in making highly enriched uranium, a key ingredient in bombs.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a series of interviews with US television and radio networks, said Iran had a "matter of weeks," not months, to deliver a definitive response to the package agreed on by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany in Vienna on Thursday.
Iran is facing a "moment of truth," she told CBS Television.
"They need to make a choice. The international community needs to know if negotiation is a real option," Rice told CNN.
She also said that both paths agreed on Thursday night one leading Iran to international integration with incentives and another path towards isolation through various disincentives were "quite robust."
The Chinese Foreign Minister on Friday spoke with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki by telephone and discussed the nuclear issue.
Li said China "supports all the efforts conducive to the resolution of the Iran nuclear issue through diplomatic negotiations," Xinhua News Agency reported.
A European Union diplomat said EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was on standby to present the offer to Iran, probably within days.
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett touted the package as "far-reaching" and said it gave Iran a chance to "reach a negotiated agreement based on co-operation."
She said it included an offer to remove Iran's case from the Council agenda if Teheran shelved uranium enrichment.
No other details would be given, she said, until Iran was presented with the package and had time to consider it.
Diplomats said earlier the incentives would encompass a light-water nuclear reactor and an assured foreign supply of atomic fuel so Iran would not need to enrich uranium itself, thereby mastering technology with weapons applications.
They had said sanctions could entail visa bans and a freeze on assets of Iranian officials before resorting to trade measures.
Iranian officials had said in advance they would never barter away the Islamic state's drive to enrich uranium, likening the proposal as akin to exchanging "candies for gold."
Source: China Daily