Ashton to Meet With Iran's New Nuclear Negotiator on Stalled Nuke Talks

Ashton to meet with Iran's FM on the sidelines of a UN meeting; meanwhile, EU court rules against sanctions on seven Iranian companies.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail

The European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Friday she hoped to set a date for nuclear talks with Iran when she meets Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of a United Nations gathering this month.

Speaking in Vilnius ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers, Ashton said world powers wanted to move quickly to resume negotiations over the Iranian program, which they fear has military intentions. Iran denies having any plans to make nuclear bombs.

Iran's new president, Hassan Rohani, said on Thursday the Foreign Ministry would take over talks with world powers on Iran's contested nuclear program, in an apparent move to smooth the diplomatic process after years of control by conservative hardliners.

Ashton leads talks with Iran over its nuclear program on behalf of the United States, China, Russia, Britain, Germany and France.

"The High Representative called Foreign Minister Zarif this morning, following the news that the Foreign Ministry will be responsible for the nuclear negotiations," Ashton's spokesman Michael Mann said.

"They agreed that they would meet in New York during the United Nations General Assembly week."

The six powers suspect Iran hopes to achieve the capability to make bombs via its nuclear program. Tehran says it needs atom power for electricity generation and medical research.

Meanwhile, an EU court ruled on Friday that the EU should lift sanctions it imposed against seven Iranian companies, dealing a new blow to Europe's efforts to use economic pressure to rein in Tehran's disputed nuclear work.

The ruling, which can be appealed, follows similar decisions earlier this year against sanctions imposed on two of Iran's biggest banks.

It covers: Post Bank Iran, Iran Insurance Company, Good Luck Shipping, Export Development Bank of Iran, Persia International Bank, Iranian Offshore Engineering and Construction Co and Bank Refah Kargaran.

Governments in Europe and the United States are hoping sanctions against such companies will make it more difficult for Tehran to fund its nuclear program. The General Court, Europe's second-highest, said however that the EU had failed to produce sufficient evidence the listed companies were involved in the atom work. 

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton smiles prior to her meeting with Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite at the President palace in Vilnius, Lithuania, September 5, 2013.Credit: AP