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Iran to hold new nuclear talks with powers next week

Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, delivers an address to students at the University of Tehran in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

TEHRAN/LONDON: Iran is to hold new talks with major powers on its nuclear program next week, in the wake of a landmark interim deal reached last month, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

The talks will be joined by representatives of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, which is charged with overseeing implementation of the deal under which Iran agreed to roll back parts of its program in return for limited relief from Western sanctions, ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said.

“The expert-level talks between Iran and the P5 1 will be held in Vienna on Dec. 9 and 10 with the aim of paving the way to implement the joint plan of action,” Afkham said.

She said representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency would join the talks between Iran and Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany as “observers” to help give them a “complete and precise understanding of the agreement.”

Under the deal, which lasts for six months, Iran agreed to limit its enrichment to the 5 percent level required for fuel for nuclear power stations.

It also agreed to reduce the level of enrichment of half of its existing stockpiles of higher enriched uranium and convert the rest to fuel form.

Iran’s stockpiles of 20-percent enriched uranium have been a major focus of Western concerns about its nuclear ambitions as the level is seen as major step toward the 90-percent-plus level required for a weapon.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will visit the United Arab Emirates Wednesday, he wrote on his Facebook page, upon returning to the Iranian capital. “Following the visit last week of the UAE’s foreign minister to Tehran, tomorrow I will go to the Emirates and will have meetings with the high-ranking officials ... in Dubai and Abu Dhabi,” Zarif said in his post Tuesday.

Zarif has since Sunday been on a tour of Kuwait, Oman and Qatar trying to persuade the Gulf states that the nuclear deal will enhance regional stability.

Also likely to be discussed during Zarif’s visit is the touchy issue of the sovereignty of Abu Musa and two other islands in the southern Gulf.

Zarif also wrote in his Facebook post that he was ready for negotiations with Saudi Arabia whenever Riyadh was ready and added that talks would be “beneficial for both countries, the region and the Muslim world.”

Before traveling to the UAE Wednesday, Zarif is due to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Tehran.

Also Tuesday, Britain’s new envoy to Tehran visited Iran, becoming the first British diplomat to travel to the country since ties were severed in 2011, the Foreign Office in London said.

Ajay Sharma, who is making his first trip in his new role as non-resident charge d’affaires, held “detailed and constructive” talks with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Habibollah-Zadeh and other officials.

“I had a good first visit back to Tehran today and want to thank the Iranian authorities, particularly my counterpart Mr. Habibollah-Zadeh, for facilitating the trip,” Sharma said in a statement issued by the Foreign Office.

“I held detailed and constructive discussions with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs about taking forward our bilateral relationship on a step-by-step and reciprocal basis.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 04, 2013, on page 1.

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