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June 21, 2006
August 22nd?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has replied to the joint EU-US demand for a response to their package of incentives and sanctions regarding the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons. The Iranian president informed the West that he would need until August 22nd to review the proposal and to prepare an answer (via It Shines For All):

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Iran will respond in mid-August to the package of incentives on its nuclear program offered by the West, but President Bush accused Tehran of dragging its feet.

"We are studying the proposals. Hopefully, we will present our views about the package by mid-August," Ahmadinejad told a crowd in western Iran in a speech broadcast live on state television.

Speaking at an annual U.S.-European Union summit in Vienna, Austria, Bush said that the mid-August timetable "seems like an awfully long time" to wait for an answer.

The long review time request did not come with an explanation of its need. The EU and the US appear to see this as a fairly straightforward package that only requires the Iranians give up uranium enrichment, at least during the negotiating period -- a prerequisite that has a basis in the NPT as well as in previous Iranian deception about their technology. Considering all of the resources that both sides have used to get to this stage, one would expect that all of the technical issues would be well understood.

Ahmadinejad's request has nothing to do with analyzing the package; he simply wants to stall as long as possible. August 22nd comes exactly two months from tomorrow, contradicting Bush's insistence on "weeks, not months" for a substantive response. It's so silly and childish that one wonders what else of significance might happen in the nine weeks between now and his proposed deadline. Could the Iranians be that close to starting a massive cascade of centrifuges that could produce weapons-grade uranium by that date?

August 22nd is just an opening gambit. The EU should take the lead in insisting on a shorter response cycle, and start at mid-July. The haggling will allow both sides to seem tough to their domestic audiences, and the response from Iran will be instructive about their insistence on the late date.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 21, 2006 9:00 AM

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