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EU Ministers To Discuss Iran, Central Asia, Russia

(RFE/RL) April 23, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- EU foreign ministers are set to kick off a busy week when they meet today in Luxembourg.

Their agenda includes efforts to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions, talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and a German-led initiative to boost cooperation with Central Asia.

All 27 EU member states agree that closer links with Central Asia are desirable, and Christiane Hohmann, a European Commission spokeswoman, tells RFE/RL the talks will allow EU member states to hammer out details of the EU's new Central Asian Strategy.

"During Monday's [General and External Affairs Council meeting] the member states will have [their] first discussion, a first round of discussions, on the draft for the EU's Central Asian Strategy, which we hope will then be adopted by the June [EU summit]," Hohmann said.

The EU wants to better tap Central Asia's enormous potential in contributing to meet the bloc's energy needs. The EU also wants a greater role in the region by assisting on issues such as rule of law, democracy, human rights, and security.

The ministers will hold talks for two days before negotiators from Iran and the UN Security Council, plus Germany, meet for the first time since February to discuss Tehran's controversial nuclear program.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana is due to meet with Iran's top negotiator, Ali Larijani, on April 25, although the venue has not been announced.

(AP, Reuters)