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Talks Resume Over Iran Nuclear Program

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (second from left ) and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Mohammad Zarif (right) attend the last day of the EU 5+1 Talks with Iran at the UN headquarters in Vienna on February 20.
Talks have resumed in Vienna between Tehran and six world powers over Iran's nuclear program.

The renewal of talks on March 18 aimed at finding a long-term settlement to the Iran nuclear crisis come amid new tensions as Iran charges that foreign intelligence agencies have attempted to sabotage one of its nuclear facilities.

Asghar Zarean, a top security official for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, accused unnamed intelligence agencies of tampering with imported pumps at the unfinished Arak heavy water nuclear reactor.

Once finished, Arak would be capable of producing plutonium, a fissile material for a nuclear weapon.

Iran has previously accused Israel and the United States of using covert operations to cripple its nuclear program.

The six world powers meeting with Iran are the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany.

Zarif Reportedly Cancels Ashton Dinner

In related news, Iranian media say Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has canceled a dinner with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton because of her meetings with Iranian opposition activists during her recent visit to Tehran.

The semiofficial Fars news agency said the cancellation in Vienna was intended as a protest against the "uncoordinated meetings in Tehran," a reference to Ashton's meeting with several female opposition activists in Tehran earlier this month, including human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.

But Ashton's spokesman, Michael Mann, said that since Ashton and Zarif had met in Tehran there was "less need" for them to meet again for dinner ahead of the nuclear talks in Vienna.

Mann said on Twitter on March 18 that Ashton and Zarif "had a constructive meeting this morning."

Based on reporting by AP, Interfax, Reuters