Middle East

Iran and EU agree new nuclear talks

Saeed Jalili (File photo)
Image caption Iran's nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili is to travel to Geneva for the talks

Iran has agreed to hold talks on its controversial nuclear programme, the European Union has said.

The talks are to take place in Geneva on 6 and 7 December, said the EU's foreign policy chief, Baroness Ashton.

They will be the first high-level direct talks with Iran on the nuclear issue since October 2009.

Western powers fear Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists its uranium enrichment programme is peaceful and legal.

Baroness Ashton's office said that meetings with Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili next week see the EU's foreign policy chief would lead a delegation of officials from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - US, Russia, China, France and Britain - as well as Germany.

"We've now received a response from the Iranian authorities in which they have said that Dr Jalili has accepted Catherine Ashton's proposal to meet in Geneva", a spokesman said on Tuesday.

Western countries have called on Iran to stop all enrichment of uranium amid accusations that the country is pursuing a secret nuclear weapons programme.

Iran's defiance has led to sanctions on the country, which says it uses nuclear technology only for peaceful purposes.

As a member state of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran says it has the right to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed on Tuesday that his country would not make "one iota" of concessions over its nuclear rights at the meetings in Geneva.

A breakthrough could only be expected if the talks were held under "equal" conditions and if Iran's rights were respected, Mr Ahmadinejad said in a speech broadcast live on state television.

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