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EU's Ashton says 5+1 is ready for talks at venue suggested by Iran

Source: Mehr News Agency, Tehran

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has announced that the 5+1 group (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany) is ready to hold talks with Iran at any venue suggested by the Islamic Republic.

Ashton, who represents the six major powers in nuclear negotiations with Iran, made the remarks in an interview with Al-Alam News Network's correspondent in Brussels, which was published on Friday.

We are waiting to resume contacts with Iran. I have sent a reply to the Iranian side" to carry out the preliminary work for the resumption of talks, Ashton said, according to a translation of her comments.

"We want the resumption of talks and want to return to the negotiating table in Istanbul or at any other venue that Iran would choose," she stated.

Iran and the six major powers have recently signaled readiness to resume nuclear talks and Turkey has said that it is ready to host the negotiations.

In late January 2011, a new round of talks between Iran and the major powers was held in Istanbul but no date was set for the next round of negotiations.

After the end of the Geneva talks in early December 2010, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, announced that Iran and the 5+1 group had agreed that the next rounds of talks should focus on common ground for cooperation.

However, the 5+1 group reneged on the agreement, and after the end of the Geneva talks, Ashton read out a statement saying the nuclear issue would be the focus of the next round of talks, a move which drew strong criticism from Iranian officials.

The main bone of contention between Tehran and the West is Iran's uranium enrichment program.

Iran says all its nuclear activities are totally peaceful, and, as an International Atomic Energy Agency member and a nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signatory, it has the legal right to produce nuclear fuel for its research reactors and nuclear power plants.

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