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EU's Ashton to meet Iran nuclear negotiator

To represent Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany during the talk with Tehran

AFP/PTI  |  Vilnius 

EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton will meet later this month Iran's foreign minister, newly in charge of the dossier on the country's contested nuclear programme, an official said today.

Ashton called Mohammad Javad Zarif "following the news that the foreign ministry will be responsible for the nuclear negotiations," Ashton's spokesman Michael Mann said.

"They agreed that they will meet in New York during the UN General Assembly," held later this month, Mann said.

Tehran announced yesterday that President Hassan Rowhani had tasked the foreign ministry with handling the nuclear talks, a move taken as signalling Iran might prove more accommodating that under his predecessor.

Under president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's nuclear dossier was handled by unyielding hardliners.

Zarif said today in Tehran that Iran wants to allay concerns over its nuclear programme, widely suspected of hiding efforts to build a bomb.

"There are two principles in the nuclear domain -- first and foremost, respect for our rights in matters of nuclear technology, especially the enrichment of uranium," he said.

"Following that is to allay concerns" on the programme," he added.

Ashton leads the talks with Tehran on behalf of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, the permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany.

Last month, she called Zarif to express 'her continued determination and commitment to seek a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue."

Rowhani has said Iran is ready for "serious" talks on its nuclear programme without delay.

Western countries and Israel accuse Iran of using its nuclear programme as a cover to develop weapons capability, a charge Tehran strongly denies.

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First Published: Fri, September 06 2013. 16:38 IST