EU’s Ashton Heads to UN after Iran Talks

Posted September 18th, 2012 at 8:45 pm (UTC-5)
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The chief negotiator with Iran over its controversial nuclear program says she plans to consult with Western powers next week following her meeting late Tuesday with her Iranian counterpart.

In a statement after meeting Iran's Saeed Jalili in Istanbul, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she hopes “to assess the situation and to discuss the way forward” with her United Nations partners in New York. The discussions will come on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

Ashton's meeting Tuesday with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Jalili was the first direct talks since the two sides failed to reach a breakthrough on the nuclear dispute in June. Neither side commented on what they discussed Tuesday behind closed doors.

The meeting came at a time of increased tension in the Persian Gulf, as Tehran deployed a Russian-made submarine and a destroyer days after the United States and more than two dozen allies began nearby naval exercises.

Iran is under international sanctions for its controversial nuclear program. Iran says its program is peaceful but Western nations, Israel and U.N. nuclear experts have expressed fears that Iran is working toward development of a nuclear weapon.

On Monday, Tehran alleged that “terrorists” had infiltrated the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency to sabotage the Islamic Republic's uranium enrichment plants.

The head of Iran's atomic agency, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, said power lines to its primary underground nuclear facility at Fordo were cut last month by explosive blasts set off by “terrorists and saboteurs.”

In the past, Iran has blamed the United States and Israel for targeting its nuclear program and scientists.

Increased uranium enrichment activity at the Fordo site has raised concerns because it can be a step in weapons development. Iran says the increased enrichment is for medical and energy needs.