EU’s Ashton: Iran nuclear talks to convene in November

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The next round of talks between world powers and Iran on its controversial nuclear program will be held in November, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Wednesday.

“It was decided to convene the next meeting in Geneva on November 7 and 8,” Ashton told reporters after two days of negotiations with Iran.

Ashton said she was reading from what was an unprecedented joint statement agreed with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and herself as chair of the international negotiating team.

Zarif said the talks could herald a shift in Tehran's ties.

"We hope that this is a beginning of a new phase in our relations," Zarif told reporters in Geneva.

The United States sent on Wednesday an encouraging message saying that Iran had shown a new level of “seriousness and substance.”

“We found the Iranian presentation very useful. The Iranian proposal was a new proposal with a level of seriousness and substance that we had not seen before,” U.S. President Barack Obama spokesman Jay Carney was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse.

He did however, warn that Washington did not yet expect immediate progress.

“Having said that, no one should expect a breakthrough overnight,” Carney said, adding that Washington wanted to examine the technical and complicated proposals offered by Iran in private, according to AFP.

But Moscow has expressed skepticism over the results of the nuclear talks with a senior Russian diplomat saying the two sides were “kilometers apart” in their approaches, Reuters reported.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said he saw no guarantee of progress in future talks.

“The result is better than in Almaty (talks in April), but it does not guarantee further progress, there could have been better cooperation,” Ryabkov was quoted by Interfax as saying, according to Reuters.

The European Union is at the helm of the so-called P5+1 group -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany -- who have spent years trying to reach a deal with Iran.

The announcement came just hours after Iran’s top negotiator said that a nuclear proposal presented to major powers in Geneva allows for “snap inspections” of the country’s nuclear facilities, reported AFP.

“None of these issues exist in the first step, but they are part of our last step,” Abbas Araqchi was quoted as saying to official news agency IRNA by AFP.

The protocol allows unannounced inspections of a country’s nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and requires that information be provided on all activities regarding the nuclear fuel cycle.

Currently, Iran is obliged to inform the IAEA three months ahead of transferring fissile material into a nuclear site.

Iran and the European Union-chaired P5+1 group began Wednesday a second day of talks concerning Tehran’s nuclear program.

Iran has been praised by all sides due to the new Iranian president’s proposal to end the decade-long standoff over the issue.

But Israel responded with a call on Western powers to keep up economic sanctions until Tehran ditches its program that Washington and its allies believe is destined to develop nuclear weapons.

“Iran should be tested by its actions, not its proposals,” a senior Israeli official said according to Reuters speaking on condition of anonymity in a message sent from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office.

“Until substantive steps are carried out that prove that Iran is dismantling its military nuclear program, the international community must continue with its sanctions against it (Iran),” the official said.

The Geneva talks, which began Tuesday, ended a sixth-month suspension in diplomacy, sparked by Iran’s refusal to curb uranium enrichment.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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