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Iran minister to join UN talks

Iran's new foreign minister will join talks with six key nations trying to rein in Tehran's nuclear programme later this week at the United Nations, the European Union's foreign policy chief has said.

Catherine Ashton, the chief nuclear negotiator, told reporters after meeting foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that she saw "energy and determination" for talks with the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany to move forward.

Foreign ministers of the six nations are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Thursday.

The meeting between the Western powers and Iran will be the first since April, when discussions on how to reduce fears that Tehran might use its nuclear technology for weapons stalled at a meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The election of Iran's new president, Hasan Rouhani, considered a relative moderate in a hardline clerical regime, has sparked speculation about possible movement on the nuclear issue. He said last month that the foreign ministry - not the Supreme National Security Council - will lead nuclear talks with world powers, a shift away from security officials being in control. Mr Rouhani is scheduled to address the UN on Tuesday.

US state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington hopes the new Iranian government "will engage substantively with the international community to reach a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear programme and to co-operate fully" with the International Atomic Energy Agency in its investigation.

Baroness Ashton said she and her team will meet Mr Zarif again in October to follow up on Thursday's meeting to continue their discussion on reviving long-stalled negotiations.

"We had a good and constructive discussion," she said of her half-hour meeting with Mr Zarif. "We didn't talk about the details of what we would do. The purpose of this meeting was to establish how we would go forward."

The UN Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions against Iran because of concerns it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. The Western allies have imposed even more punishing sanctions which have severely affected Iran's economy and drawn criticism from its citizens.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful, aimed only at producing energy and isotopes for medical use. Mr Rouhani said last week that Tehran has "never pursued or sought a nuclear bomb, and we are not going to do so".

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