Iran's foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, says negotiations are under way to hold new talks between global powers and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program, and the "most probable” venue is Istanbul.
But a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton denied Salehi’s comments, saying Tehran has not yet responded to Ashton’s proposal to resume talks contained in a letter she had sent to Iranian officials in October.
Salehi offered no time frame in connection with his statement.
The last round of talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States -- and Germany, held in Istanbul a year ago, ended in failure.
Iran, accused of seeking nuclear weapons capability, has since come under tougher international sanctions that follow four rounds of UN sanctions.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned
on January 18 that fresh sanctions could hamper efforts to resolve the Iran nuclear standoff.
"This [economic sanctions] really has nothing to do with the desire to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime," Lavrov said. "This is really seriously calculated to have a suffocating effect on the Iranian economy and on the situation of the Iranian population, in an apparent attempt to provoke discontent."
Lavrov also warned against "most difficult" consequences of any possible military action to set back Iran's nuclear activities.
"We are very seriously concerned about it because there will be refugees, a large number of refugees from Iran," he said, adding, "It is impossible to predict all the consequences. I have no doubt that it would pour fuel on the already smoldering fire of the Sunni-Shi'ite conflict and cause a chain reaction. I don't know where it would stop."
Iran's envoy to the UN atomic watchdog, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, was quoted by Fars News Agency on January 17 as saying a high-level delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was to visit Iran on January 29-31 to discuss Tehran's nuclear program.
compiled from agency reports