• Iran aiming for nuclear agreement with West


    BRUSSELS: Foreign Minister Mo-hammad Javad Zarif said he had “good discussions” on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) with European Union (EU) foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Tehran was committed to an accord over its contested nuclear program.

    Iran wants progress on the issue, Zarif was cited as saying by the Belga state news agency after a meeting with Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders.

    He said he was “fairly optimistic” after talks earlier with Ashton that Iran and the five permanent United Nations Security Council mem-bers—Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States—plus Germany could reach a deal on Tehran’s nuclear program by a November deadline.

    EU officials said earlier that there would be no statement on Monday’s Ashton-Zarif talks which they described as a “fairly standard” meeting.

    Foreign Minister Zarif had come to Brussels to “discuss progress to date and how to take the process forward” after the latest round of talks in Vienna earlier this month, a spokesman said.

    Ashton has overseen the talks between Iran and the major powers on reaching a com-prehensive deal, which would end a decade-long dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program.

    The West suspects Iran wants to acquire nuclear weapons but Tehran insists the program it is purely for peaceful purposes.

    A July deadline passed without an accord but was extended to November 24.

    Iran’s official IRNA news agency earlier on Monday cited one of Zarif’s deputies, Abbas Araqchi, as saying the “suggestion of an impasse in the negotiations is not correct.

    “There are key questions and if we answer these, it will address other issues as well. Hopefully we can reach a common understanding by November,” he added.

    In exchange for accepting curbs on its nuclear activities, Iran wants a vast array of US, EU and UN sanctions to be lifted.



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