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EU, US confirm new Iran nuclear talks on 17 December

Global powers hope to reach a deal with Iran on their nuclear programme by March ahead of a 30 June deadline
The EU's Cathy Ashton with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna (AFP)

The EU and US on Friday confirmed that extended nuclear talks with Iran will resume on 17 December in Geneva after they failed to reach a deal with Tehran last month.

The talks, first announced in a report from Iran on Thursday, will be at the level of senior policy officials rather than foreign ministers, the EU's diplomatic service said.

"The political directors of the [P5+1] and Iran will meet again on 17 December 2014 in Geneva for a one-day meeting to continue diplomatic efforts towards reaching a long-term, comprehensive solution," it said in a statement.

The P5+1 is made up the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – US, Russia, China, UK and France – plus Germany.

Washington confirmed that acting Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman would first hold bilateral talks with the Iranian delegation in the Swiss city on 15 and 16 December.

"These bilateral consultations will take place in the context of the P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran, led by EU special advisor Cathy Ashton," the US State Department said in a statement.

The US-Iran bilateral talks would be joined for part of the meeting by the EU's Helga Schmid, it added.

It will be the first time the sides have met since failing to meet a 24 November deadline for a full deal with Iran on reining in its nuclear programme in exchange for an easing of crippling international sanctions.

The global powers and Iran agreed to give themselves until 30 June to strike a deal, although they hope to have the broad outlines hammered out by March.

The EU's external affairs arm said the P5+1 talks in Geneva next week would be technical, not political.

Accordingly, Ashton, who chaired the talks previously and now serves as special Iran adviser to her successor Federica Mogherini, will not attend the talks, a spokeswoman said.

Mogherini announced Friday that Ashton would continue to lead the negotiations with Iran so as to ensure continuity.

A final agreement is aimed at ensuring Tehran will not develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities.

Iran denies that it is seeking the bomb and insists its nuclear activities are for solely peaceful purposes.

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