Iran is ready to hold its first talks with world powers in more than a year about its disputed nuclear programme at any time after 10 November, Baroness Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said yesterday.
The meeting with a group of six world powers would be the first in the dispute since October 2009 and also the first since the UN, the US and European Union imposed tougher sanctions on Iran this year.
Western officials say the punitive measures are increasingly damaging the economy of the world's fifth-biggest oil producer and that this may persuade it to agree to curb sensitive atomic activity. Iran has dismissed the impact of sanctions and shows no sign of backing down over a uranium enrichment drive. It says it has a sovereign right to pursue peaceful nuclear power, but the West suspects it aims to build atomic bombs.
The six global powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – want Iran to suspend enrichment work which can have both civilian and military uses, in exchange for trade and diplomatic benefits on offer since 2006.
Baroness Ashton said she had received a letter from Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, in which he agreed to meet "in a place and on a date convenient to both sides" after 10 November.