EU accepts Iran talks offer

March 6th, 2012 - 10:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Brussels, March 6 (IANS/RIA Novosti) European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has accepted Tehran’s offer to resume negotiations with the Iran Six amid growing international concerns over the Islamic republic’s controversial nuclear activities.

Ashton, in a statement Tuesday, said she had replied to Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili’s letter, in which he proposed resuming the talks which have been stalled for more than a year.

“Today (Tuesday) I have replied to Jalili’s letter of Feb 14,” she said. “I have offered to resume talks with Iran on the nuclear issue.”

The date and venue for the talks are yet to be established, she added.

Jalili said in his letter Tehran would have “new initiatives” to bring to the table in its talks with the Iran Six which comprises Russia, the US, China, Britain, France and Germany. Ashton represents the six powers in dealings with Iran.

The six mediators have been trying to convince Iran to halt its uranium enrichment programme and to alleviate concerns about its nuclear ambitions since 2003. Negotiations have been stalled since a meeting in Istanbul a year ago.

Tensions over Iranian nuclear activities have risen to fever pitch since Tehran announced in mid-January that it had begun enriching uranium in the heavily fortified Fordow underground facility.

As Western powers increased pressure on the Islamic Republic, Iran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway along its coastline through which one-fifth of the world’s oil flows.

Israel has recently stepped up its verbal threats to attack Iran if it does not abandon its nuclear ambitions and the US has also not ruled out the possibility of using military force against the Islamic Republic.

Western powers suspect Iran of pursuing a secret weapons program, while Tehran insists it needs nuclear fuel for solely civilian purposes.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said earlier Tuesday Moscow would push for talks to scrap unilateral sanctions against Iran if it allows the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to control Iranian nuclear activity.

Iran is subject to a wide range of international sanctions, including an EU ban on oil supplies from the Islamic Republic which is due to come into force in July.

–IANS/RIA Novosti
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