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Iran seeks nuclear talks with EU's Ashton

Tehran, May 11, 2010

Iran is willing to hold talks with the European Union's foreign policy chief over its disputed nuclear activities, a senior official said on Tuesday, after the bloc's top diplomat spoke of new sanctions against Tehran.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Monday extra sanctions could be adopted quickly, but that the EU was open to more talks with Iran if it showed it really wanted them.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Iran was ready for talks with Ashton, adding that 'a time and venue for such a meeting had not been set yet'.

'(Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed) Jalili and Ashton could meet in Turkey,' Mehmanparast told a weekly news conference. 'We do not see a problem with that.'

Western diplomats have said mid-June is a target deadline for getting a fourth round of U.N. sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear programme, which it says is to generate electricity and not build bombs as the West fears.

Iran has welcomed Turkish and Brazilian mediation efforts to resolve the nuclear dispute, aimed at reviving a stalled fuel deal with major powers.

The deal is seen as a way to remove much of Iran's low-enriched uranium (LEU) stockpile to minimise the risk of this being used for atomic bombs, providing Iran with specially processed fuel to keep its research reactor running.

The deal broke down over Iran's insistence on doing the swap only on its territory, rather than shipping its LEU abroad in advance, and in smaller, phased amounts, meaning no significant cut in a stockpile which grows day by day.

Turkey and Brazil, both non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, are opposed to further sanctions against Iran.

But Mehmanparast said Iran had no intention to change its view over the venue for a fuel swap.

'We are ready to resolve the (nuclear) issue through talks ... New formulas have been raised about the exchange of fuel in our talks with Turkey and Brazil,' Mehmanparast said.

'The new formula does not cover the venue of fuel exchange. We have always said the swap should take place inside Iran.'

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will travel to Iran on May 16, Mehmanparast said.

'They will discuss the nuclear issue and the nuclear fuel deal with Iranian authorities.' – Reuters




Tags: Iran | EU | Tehran | Nuclear talks | Ashton |

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