by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) Oct 11, 2013
Iran wants the six world powers negotiating over its controversial nuclear drive to send top diplomats to crunch talks in Geneva next week, the official news agency IRNA reported Friday.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is to lead Iran's nuclear team at a new round of negotiations with the so-called P5+1 group of the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany on October 15 and 16.
But Zarif "will attend only the opening session on Tuesday and the rest of the talks will be held between deputies if the six (world powers) are not represented at the level of foreign ministers," IRNA said, quoting a source in Iran's nuclear team.
Abbas Araqchi, a deputy foreign minister who was also a member of the nuclear team under ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will then lead Iran's delegation at the Geneva meetings, it said.
Zarif will remain in the Swiss city for the duration of the talks, it added.
According to the report, Zarif and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton -- who represents the P5+1 in the talks -- will meet on Monday evening at a dinner.
This will be the first round of negotiations since moderate Hassan Rouhani took office as Iran's president in August with a pledge to engage the world constructively and resolve the decade-long showdown over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
The last meeting between Iran and the P5+1 in the Kazakh city of Almaty ended with an impasse in April.
Western countries, along with Israel, suspect Iran's nuclear activities are aimed at military objectives, a claim Tehran vehemently denies.
France will stay 'tough' on Iran, Hollande soothes Netanyahu
The French leader told Netanyahu in a telephone call that France would wait to see if the more moderate politics of Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani, who replaced hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June, would translate in his "actions," the Elysee palace said.
An Israeli diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity said that Netanyahu and his French counterpart had discussed next week's meeting in Geneva of the so-called P5+1.
The group holding talks with Iran on its nuclear programme includes the five permanent members of the United Nations -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia -- as well as Germany.
The Israeli diplomat also said Hollande "is planning to visit Israel next month."
In an interview with the television channel France24 on Thursday, Netanyahu urged France to be tough on Iran "with or without Rouhani's smiles."
His comments came after a historic handshake between the French and Iranian leaders on the fringes of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month.
"If they really wanted to dismantle their nuclear weapons programme, they'd come out with it," Netanyahu told France24.
Iran will meet with six world powers next week over its nuclear programme, which the West believes is being used to develop a nuclear bomb, a claim Tehran denies.
Rouhani wants the lifting of US-led international sanctions and has indicated he favours a quick deal to end a stalemate in talks on the nuclear programme that have dragged on for eight years.
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