News / Middle East

    EU Says Iran Nuclear Talks to Resume on January 20

    EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton
    EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton

    EU officials said Friday that Iran and world powers are set to meet on January 20 in Istanbul for talks on Tehran's controversial nuclear program.

    The European Union also has hinted that it will decline Iran's offer to tour its nuclear sites.

    EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said Friday the inspection of nuclear sites is the responsibility of the United Nation's nuclear agency.

    She added the EU welcomes Iran's interest in having those sites visited.

    Ashton spoke after meeting with the foreign minister of Hungary, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

    The meeting on January 20 will include a group known as the P5 + 1, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.

    Iran invited Russia and China to tour its nuclear facilities, but excluded the remaining members of the P5 + 1 - France, Britain, the United States and Germany.

    Tehran invited the European Union and other nations to also visit the sites.

    Iranian officials suggested the tour take place on January 15 and 16, ahead of the talks in Istanbul.

    Western nations, including the United States, believe Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons.  Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

    Separately, Israel's former spy chief says Iran will not be able to build a nuclear weapon before 2015.

    Former Mossad director Meir Dagan, who retired this week, made the assessment in published reports on Friday.  Dagan says the prediction is based on briefings before his departure.  The estimate adds one year to a previous prediction by Israeli officials.

    Dagan suggests that international sanctions have affected Tehran's ability to produce nuclear weapons.

    The U.N. Security Council has imposed four sets of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to stop enriching uranium - a process that can be used to build a weapon.

    The EU, United States and other countries have imposed additional penalties.

    Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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