updated 9/7/2006 7:25:26 AM ET 2006-09-07T11:25:26

Key European nations warn that Iran is trying to weaken international opposition to its contentious nuclear program by stalling on giving a clear response to terms set by six world powers for negotiations, according to a confidential document obtained Thursday.

“The Iranian goal obviously is to split the international community,” said the document, drawn up by Britain, France and Germany, and made available to The Associated Press ahead of a key meeting of the five U.N. Security Council nations plus Germany.

The nations are scheduled to meet in Berlin on Thursday to coordinate joint strategy over Iran’s refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.

The document, labeled “In Confidence,” summarizes Iran’s response to a six-power offer to Iran dangling the prospect of technical, economic and political rewards if it agrees to suspend enrichment before talks begin and consider a long-term moratorium on the technology, which can be misused to make nuclear arms.

While not specifically threatening U.N. sanctions, it says the Security Council will have to consider “further steps” if Tehran continues to defy the council by refusing to stop enrichment.

The six-power package warned of punishments, including U.N. sanctions, if Tehran does not halt enrichment — something Iran refused to do by an Aug. 31 deadline set by the U.N. Security Council.

'Neither accepts nor rejects'
Iran’s Aug. 22 response to the six-power offer has been kept confidential. But the United States and its allies have described it as unsatisfactory, primarily because of Tehran’s refusal to consider freezing enrichment.

Diplomats familiar with the document said it was drawn up by Britain, France and Germany, which are among the six nations that made the June incentives offer, to inform other nations of the substance of Iran’s counteroffer and share the Western view that it was inadequate.

“The reply is along the lines of previous Iranian statements in that typically it neither accepts nor rejects outright” the six-power proposal, said the document sent to dozens of capitals last week.

By hinting that it is prepared to resume suspension of uranium enrichment, the document says, Iran’s goal “obviously is to split the international community and draw us into a process of talks about talks, on Iranian terms, while making no commitments of its own while continuing with its enrichment programme.”

The document described Iran’s response as “verbose and complicated, and ambiguous in many places.”

Iran promises that it is prepared to discuss the suspension of uranium enrichment “in the course of negotiations but not before,” the document said. In addition, Iran demands the “termination” of Security Council involvement in its nuclear file.

A final attempt
Iran’s nuclear defiance is the thrust of the talks Thursday in the German capital by U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns and counterparts from the other five powers — Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

In Denmark, meanwhile the European Union’s foreign policy chief said Thursday he expects to hold nuclear talks with Iranian nuclear envoy Ali Larijani “in the coming days.”

Javier Solana did not give any details on the time or place of the meeting.

The talks are considered a final attempt to see if there is common ground to start negotiations between Iran and the six powers.

Larijani, meanwhile, was in Madrid, Spain, on Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is also in Madrid for talks with Zapatero, but it was not immediately known if he and Larijani will meet.

Larijani is reportedly to go to Italy and then to Vienna, Austria, after his visit in Spain.

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