Iran aiming for nuclear accord: Javad Zarif

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he had 'good discussions' with EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Tehran was committed to an accord over its contested nuclear programme.

Iran wants progress on the issue, Zarif was cited yesterday as saying by the Belga state news agency after a meeting with Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders.

He said he was 'fairly optimistic' after talks earlier with Ashton that Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany could reach a deal on Tehran's nuclear programme by a November deadline.

EU officials said earlier that there would be no statement on Monday's Ashton-Zarif talks which they described as a 'fairly standard' meeting.

Foreign Minister Zarif had come to Brussels to 'discuss progress to date and how to take the process forward' after the latest round of talks in Vienna earlier this month, a spokesman said.

Ashton has overseen the talks between Iran and the major powers on reaching a comprehensive deal which would end a decade-long dispute over Tehran's nuclear programme.

The West suspects Iran wants to acquire nuclear weapons but Tehran insists the programme it is purely for peaceful purposes.

A July deadline passed without an accord but was extended to November 24.

Iran's official IRNA news agency earlier Monday cited one of Zarif's deputies, Abbas Araqchi, as saying the "suggestion of an impasse in the negotiations is not correct.

"There are key questions and if we answer these, it will address other issues as well. Hopefully we can reach a common understanding by November."

In exchange for accepting curbs on its nuclear activities, Iran wants a vast array of US, EU and UN sanctions to be lifted.

The parties are expected to meet again on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York later this month.


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