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World Powers Discuss Iran Nuclear Issue Ahead Of Moscow Talks

Representatives of the six world powers, namely the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany, have held talks with EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton on ways to advance the ongoing negotiations on Iran's controversial nuclear program, the European Union said in a statement released late on Monday.

Negotiations between Iran and the six world powers are being mediated by Ashton, while the Iranian side is headed by its chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili. The latest round of talks was in continuation of negotiations held in the Iraqi capital Baghdad last month.

The Baghdad talks ended in a deadlock after Iran rejected proposals put forward by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany for persuading Tehran to roll back its uranium enrichment work. Nevertheless, it was agreed to hold fresh negotiations on the issue in Moscow on June 18-19.

According to the EU statement, the talks held between Ashton and the six world powers on June 11 were aimed at finding a way forward for the Moscow talks. It said EU's Political Director Helga Schmid has been in constant contact with her Iranian counterpart Dr. Bagheri since the Baghdad talks.

The statement said Ashton held a one-hour telephonic conversation with Jalili late on Monday to update him on the conclusions of her meeting with representatives of the six world powers.

"They agreed on the need for Iran to engage on the E3+3 proposals, which address its concerns on the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program. She also conveyed the E3+3's readiness to respond to the issues raised by the Iranians in Baghdad," the statement added.

The offer put forward by the P5+1 nations during the Baghdad talks reportedly combined new and old proposals aimed at persuading Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program in exchange for concessions. The P5+1 nations are said to have offered to supply medical isotopes and provide co-operation on nuclear safety to Iran if it halted its 20 percent uranium enrichment work.

Iran is said to have rejected the offer, insisting that uranium enrichment is its non-negotiable right. Tehran's representatives also presented their own five-point package of proposals on "nuclear and non-nuclear issues" to the other participating nations.

Iran's participation in the talks was mainly for convincing the P5+1 nations to lift their individual as well as U.N. sanctions currently imposed on the Islamic Republic over its disputed nuclear program. On the other hand, the P5+1 group wants Iran to halt enriching uranium to 20 percent level, which can be used for making nuclear weapons, and allow U.N. nuclear inspectors to verify the so-claimed peaceful intentions of Iran's disputed nuclear activity.

Tehran insists that its uranium enrichment program is aimed at producing fuel for a medical reactor in the national capital, but the West suspects such claims to be a cover-up for producing weapon-grade uranium. Tehran says it has the right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes as it is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the IAEA.

Iran had already survived four sets of sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council following its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. Moreover, the United States and its allies, including the European Union, have imposed separate sanctions on the country after a report released by the IAEA in November that cautioned Iran may be planning to develop nuclear weapons.

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