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Latest update : 2009-07-27

Washington hopes that Tehran will respond positively to recent US diplomatic overtures regarding Iran's pursuit of nuclear technology by this autumn, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Monday while on a regional tour.

AFP - Washington hopes Iran will answer diplomatic overtures on its controversial nuclear drive by the autumn, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Monday.
"The president is certainly anticipating or hoping for some kind of a response this fall, perhaps by the time of the UN General Assembly (in September)," Gates said at a press conference with his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak in Jerusalem.
Israel and Washington suspect Iran of trying to develop atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme, a charge Tehran has vehemently denied.
"Israel remains in its basic position that no options should be removed from the table, despite the fact that at this stage a priority should be given still to diplomacy and sanctions," Barak said.
Widely considered to be the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear armed power, Israel regards Iran as its arch-enemy because of repeated calls by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the Jewish state should be "wiped off the map."
But Iran reiterated on Monday it has no plans to build nuclear weapons and said it was preparing a package to be submitted to the global powers which have been pressing Tehran to halt its sensitive atomic work.
"We are a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and it is our right to have peaceful nuclear activities. Nuclear weapons have no place in our defence structure," foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi told reporters.
His remarks came a day after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Tehran that any pursuit of atomic arms was futile, but acknowledged that Washington was prepared to engage with whichever regime is in power.
In April, Ahmadinejad announced that Iran will present a new package to the world powers in a bid to solve various contentious issues, including its sensitive nuclear work.
"We are preparing it. It should be comprehensive and updated... and so it requires a longer time," Ghashghavi said.
Iran has defied UN Security Council resolutions and sanctions and is continuing to enrich uranium, a process which makes fuel for nuclear power plants but can also form the core of an atomic bomb.

Date created : 2009-07-27