US will not reply to Iran letter

The US said it will make no formal response to a letter sent by the Iranian president, but President George W Bush vowed to pursue diplomatic efforts to counter Iran's nuclear program.

As Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Indonesia, where he could ask Jakarta to mediate in the nuclear row, Tehran said it was waiting for a reply to his 18-page letter to Bush.

But the White House insisted there will be no response on top of comments already made by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who said it contained nothing new that offered hope of settling the nuclear dispute.

Although a New York meeting yesterday of the foreign ministers of six major powers failed to agree on how to tackle Tehran, Rice said: 'The international community is united that there must be a strong message to Iran through the Security Council that their behavior to date is unacceptable.'

International oil prices edged up again following the US rejection of the letter.
Iran has refused to meet international demands to end its uranium enrichment work, which Washington and its allies believe hides a nuclear weapons drive. Tehran insists its research is for peaceful purposes.

The US, the UK and France want a resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which would probably start with a warning to Iran that could be followed up with economic sanctions and even military action.

But China and Russia have spoken out strongly against coercive measures.
Bush said that even China and Russia agreed that Iran must not be allowed to have a bomb, but that he was determined to seek a negotiated settlement rather than taking more coercive measures.

'The first option and the most important option is diplomacy,' he said during an appearance in Florida when asked about the dispute with Iran by a member of the public.

The letter from Ahmadinejad called for 'new ways' to ease long-running tensions that have reached a new peak over the nuclear dispute.

Tehran portrayed the letter as an important diplomatic initiative, but US officials dismissed the document as more of a philosophical treatise than political overture.

'There is nothing in this letter that in any way addresses any of the issues really that are on the table in the international community,' Rice said, reports Forbes.


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