13 Nov 2010

EU agrees to long-stalled talks with Iran

3:46 pm on 13 November 2010

The European Union has agreed to meet Iran to begin long-stalled talks on Iran's controversial nuclear programme, EU officials say.

The EU has accepted the date of 5 December put forward by the Iranians earlier this week, but a venue has yet to be agreed.

Officials say the EU suggested holding the talks in Austria or Switzerland instead of Iran's proposal, Istanbul.

If Iran agrees, they would be the first formal talks in more than a year.

Western powers fear Iran is building capacity to produce a nuclear bomb, the BBC reports. Iran denies that, saying it's pursuing a civilian atomic programme designed to meet its energy needs.

Foreign affairs chief given mandate

The latest development came when the EU's foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, sent a letter proposing a date and venue for the talks in response to an offer from Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili.

Lady Ashton has been given a mandate by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, to lead the negotiations with Iran.