Europe

Iran nuclear talks set to resume after Ashton offer

Catherine Ashton, September 2010
Image caption Lady Ashton leads the international community's negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue

The Iranian foreign minister says Iran is ready to resume talks with the international community on its nuclear programme within a few weeks.

On Thursday, EU foreign affairs chief Baroness Ashton suggested talks could be held in Vienna in mid-November.

Dialogue between Iran and the group of 5+1 nations she represents - the UK, US, China, France, Russia and Germany - has been stalled since October 2009.

Western powers fear Iran is covertly trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran says its nuclear programme is aimed at meeting domestic energy needs.

'Good news'

On Thursday, following a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Brussels, Lady Ashton suggested that talks be held in Vienna over three days in mid-November.

She said she opted to "put forward a direct proposal of what should happen [with] dates with places", as Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili had not responded to her written invitations in months.

Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who was also in Brussels for an international conference on aid for Pakistan, described Lady Ashton's offer as "good news".

Mr Jalili on Friday said that Iran welcomed the return to negotiations.

"We have always said that dialogue on co-operation with the Islamic republic of Iran is the only option," he told state television.

Iran is under four sets of UN sanctions over its refusal to heed repeated Security Council ultimatums to suspend uranium enrichment, the most controversial part of its nuclear programme.

The latest UN sanctions, adopted on 9 June, include a ban on dealing with Iranian banks and insurance companies, as well as steps to prevent investment in Tehran's oil and gas sector.

The US and EU have since imposed additional unilateral sanctions, but Iran insists that none of the measures have any impact.

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