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      EU Says Iran Delaying Nuclear Talks

      World powers hope to resume talks with Iran "as soon as possible" but Iran appears to be trying to delay the process, says the EU.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 1/24/2013, 6:16 AM

      The Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran
      The Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran
      AFP/Mehr News/File

      World powers hope to resume talks with Iran "as soon as possible" and are "very flexible" on a venue, an EU spokesman said Wednesday, according to AFP.

      At the same time, the report said, Iran appears to be trying to delay the process, according to the spokesman.

      "We want to see Iran come back to the negotiating table as soon as possible so that we can make concrete progress towards dealing with the international community's concerns about the Iranian nuclear program," said a spokesman for EU foreign policy Catherine Ashton.

      Ashton represents the P5+1 -- the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France plus Germany -- in talks with Iran on its nuclear program.

      Consultations between Tehran and the group were ongoing, said her spokesman Michael Mann, with the nations "still hoping to reach agreement with Iran on the modalities of the talks, including venue, with a view to resuming talks shortly."

      Earlier, the Iranian-based ISNA news agency said Tehran had suggested Cairo as the venue for the next talks.

      Iran has proposed that "the next meeting be held in Cairo, and it was welcomed by our Egyptian brothers," the agency cited Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying after a cabinet meeting.

      An EU source said that "several venues have been proposed."

      "We do not exclude any, but Iran is proposing different venues all the time. The venue is not the issue, but Iran appears to be trying to delay the process by coming up with new conditions," the source told AFP.

      Mann said that world powers had suggested dates and venues in December.

      "Ever since then, we have been very surprised to see Iran come back to us again and again with new pre-conditions on the modalities of the talks, for example by changing the venue and delaying their responses," he said.

      At the most recent talks, in Moscow last June, Tehran rejected P5+1 calls for it to scale back its uranium enrichment activities, while also asking for relief from sanctions that began to bite in 2012.

      Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, recently welcomed the return of the P5+1 to talks over the country's disputed atomic program, but urged them “not to repeat their past mistakes.”

      "There was a six-month delay but they recently announced they are ready to come back for talks," said Jalili, adding, “We welcome their return to the talks. We hope that they will come to the talks with a constructive approach and (that) they will not repeat their past mistakes.”