Iran said on Monday it would not consider any incentives offered by world powers that violated its right to nuclear technology, ruling out a precondition to halt atomic work the West believes is aimed at making bombs.
Six world powers agreed on Friday to offer a new package of incentives to coax Iran to halt uranium enrichment, a process which can make fuel for power plants or material for warheads.
Iran, the world's fourth largest oil producer, insists its enrichment activity is aimed at generating electricity, and says the programme is a national right that it will not give up.
"Those incentives that violate the Iranian nation's right in any form will not be reviewed by the Islamic state," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told a news conference.
France, one of the six powers, said the offer was generous and should not be rejected out of hand.
"They are refusing a text which is extremely generous in my opinion, so I find it a bit premature that they are refusing it without having seen it," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told reporters.
He said world power representatives would travel to Tehran "in the coming days" to submit the offer.
An EU diplomat at a conference on nuclear issues in Geneva said about Iran's comments on Monday: "This looks like an early reaction that may not be particularly serious."
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US France, Britain, China and Russia - and Germany offered a package to Iran in 2006 that also required Iran to halt enrichment. Tehran rejected those proposals.
"Regarding the incentives package ... we believe the path adopted in the past should not be continued," Hosseini said. "Talks should be held based on respecting nations' rights."
The incentives offered to Iran in 2006 included civil nuclear cooperation and wider trade in civil aircraft, energy, high technology and agriculture, if Tehran suspended enrichment and negotiated with the six powers.
A European diplomat has said the heart of the previous offer - helping Iran develop civil nuclear power - remains. Britain said details would be revealed only to the government of Iran.
At the Geneva meeting, US chief delegate Christopher Ford said the offer was Iran's "best chance" to avoid isolation.
"It is tragic that (Iran's) government has remained so set on a contrary course of deceit, lawbreaking and confrontation unbefitting to the inheritors of such a proud, ancient culture."
Russia, which sent an envoy to Iran last week for discussions that covered the nuclear standoff, said on Saturday enrichment would have to be suspended during any talks.
"In the past, we have expressed our view about the issue that some Russian officials talked about. There has been no change in our position," Hosseini said when asked about the comments by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.
Iran has also discussed with Russia its own package of proposals, which it says would open the way for talks to resolve the nuclear row and other issues. It has not disclosed details.
The US says it wants diplomacy to end the row but has repeatedly said military action is not ruled out. Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it would be hard for Washington to mount any attack on Iran.
"It would be a very significant challenge for the United States right now to get into a third conflict in that part of the world," he told Israel's Channel Ten television. (Reuters)For all the latest energy and oil news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.