European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton leaves after attending a Foreign Affairs ministers meeting on Ukraine, on March 5, 2014 in Paris. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD
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European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Sunday it would be "difficult and challenging" to reach a long-term nuclear deal with Iran, as diplomacy intensifies before talks between Tehran and world powers on March 18 .Iran and six world powers, represented by Ashton, struck a deal on Nov. 24 under which Tehran curbed some nuclear activities for six months in return for limited sanctions relief to allow time for a long-term agreement to be hammered out.Iran has won limited relief of sanctions in exchange for curbing its most sensitive nuclear work under the deal but wants a full halt to U.S., EU and U.N. sanctions that have severely limited the oil-producing nation's economy.At least 80 people and perhaps as many as 95 have been executed in Iran already this year, a surge in the use of the death penalty that has dampened hopes for human rights reforms under Rouhani, the United Nations said on Feb. 21 .
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