Iran, world powers pledge new nuclear talks

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Geneva, Oct 17: World powers and Iran agreed on Wednesday to hold fresh talks next month on its nuclear programme, after Tehran made what it dubbed a breakthrough proposal that could allow spot checks on its nuclear sites.

Iran said it was hopeful for a "new phase in our relations" with the international community after two days of talks hailed by a US official as the most "detailed, straightforward" yet with the Iranian delegation. Germany was also positive, saying the latest talks had boosted hope for a diplomatic solution but a wary Russia warned there was "no reason to break into applause."

"It was decided to convene the next meeting in Geneva on November 7 and 8," European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters.

She read from what she underlined was an unprecedented joint statement agreed with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and herself as chair of the international negotiating team.

The EU is at the helm of the so-called P5+1 group -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany -- which has spent years trying to reach a deal with Iran amid fears that it is developing nuclear weapons.

The Islamic republic vehemently denies that claim, insisting its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes. The statement described this week's Geneva talks as "substantive and forward-looking", calling Iran's plan a "proposed basis for negotiation" and "important contribution".

The EU is at the helm of the P5+1 group- UK, China, France, Russia, US + Germany

This week's talks were the first between all parties' nuclear negotiators since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, seen as a relative moderate, succeeded conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August.

They ended a six-month freeze in negotiations over Iran's refusal to curb uranium enrichment in exchange for easing the international sanctions battering its economy. Amid signs of a thaw with the international community, Rouhani has pledged transparency on the nuclear programme and engagement with major powers to try to remove the sanctions.

"We hope that this a beginning of a new phase in our relations," Zarif told reporters, calling the talks "extensive and fruitful". Details of the new proposal remain under wraps, but Iran's lead nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi said it involved "proportionate and reciprocal steps by both sides".

After an hour-long presentation yesterday by Iran's team -- in English, a first in the nuclear talks -- Araqchi said the proposal had the "capacity to make a breakthrough". 


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