The Arak heavy water plant in Iran. Photo Getty
Six world powers and Iran will begin talks in Vienna on
Feb. 18 on a long-term deal for Tehran to curb parts of its
nuclear programme in exchange for a gradual end to sanctions,
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton says.
"We have agreed that we will start the talks on Feb. 18 at
the U.N. building in Vienna," Ashton said after what she
described as a "really interesting" meeting with Iranian
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the Munich security
"It's a good change of venue to the U.N. office (in Vienna).
We are looking forward to seeing you in Iran soon," Zarif
Iran has invited Ashton, who coordinates the nuclear talks on
behalf of the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France
and Germany, to visit the country and she has said she will
The six powers have held years of negotiations aimed at
persuading Iran to curb parts of its nuclear programme, which
Western powers fear is aimed at creating atomic weapons
capabilities. Iran denies this.
A Nov. 24 interim deal between Iran and the five permanent
U.N. Security Council members plus Germany took nearly two
months to clinch in three rounds of talks in Geneva last
Under the interim deal, which is valid for six months and can
be renewed, Iran agreed to suspend its most sensitive nuclear
activity in exchange for a limited easing of Western
sanctions that are damaging its oil-reliant economy.
Talks are now set to begin on a definitive agreement.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last week Iran is
seeking a comprehensive agreement so it can develop its
battered economy, inviting Western companies to seize
The Russian news agency Interfax quoted Mikhail Ulyanov, head
of the Foreign Ministry's security and disarmament
department, as saying earlier on Friday that an agreement had
been reached to hold new talks on Feb. 18 in New York, but
the EU said then that discussions were still under way.
In an interview with Iran's state-run Press TV in Munich on
Friday, Zarif said there was a mistaken belief in the West
that the economic sanctions had forced Iran to seek an
agreement on its nuclear programme.
"I think these illusions should be set aside," he said.
Western governments should accept that "Iran is coming to the
negotiating table in order to show its nuclear programme is
exclusively peaceful and in order to remove a source of
concern for our region and the international community," he
A new type of relations would take shape between Iran and the
West if the Western countries came to the negotiating table
with the intention of reaching an agreement, Zarif said.