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EU: Iran agrees to nuclear talks

By the CNN Wire Staff
April 10, 2012 -- Updated 1109 GMT (1909 HKT)
The Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran.
The Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu lays out demands
  • Iran's nuclear chief suggests the country may stop producing 20% enriched uranium
  • Talks will include Russia, China, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the United States
  • Iran's economy has been hit by U.S. and European sanctions

(CNN) -- Nuclear talks will resume this week in Turkey between Iran and six world powers, the European Union reported Monday.

"We have agreed with Iran to launch a new round of talks in Istanbul on 14 April," said Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. "We are very pleased that these talks, which will address the international community┬┤s concerns on the Iranian nuclear programme, are going ahead after more than one year since we last met," Mann said in a statement.

Agreement comes after weeks of diplomatic wrangling between Tehran and Russia, China, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Faced with mounting pressure from the world powers over its controversial nuclear program, Iran said last month that it was ready to re-engage with the International Atomic Energy Association, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

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As a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran has the right, like other countries, to enrich uranium for commercial and research reactors. But the same facilities that are used for peaceful enrichment can be used to enrich uranium for a bomb. And that's what many Western countries suspect Iran is doing.

Iran insists its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.

The country suggested over the weekend that it may be willing to reduce the amount of uranium it is enriching at 20%.

"Based on our needs and once the required fuel is obtained, we will decrease the production and we may even totally shift it to the 3.5%," Iranian nuclear chief Fereydoun Abbasi said in a televised interview, according to state-run Press TV.

Iran does not plan to produce 20% enriched uranium for long, Abbasi said, according to Press TV.

Uranium enriched at 20% is typically used for hospital isotopes and research reactors, but is also seen as a shortcut toward the 90% enrichment required to build nuclear weapons. Nuclear experts say Iran's supply is far greater than it would need for peaceful purposes.

Iran says there is a medical purpose to its nuclear program.

The Gulf nation's economy has been hit hard by U.S. and European oil and financial sanctions over its nuclear activities.

Israel has threatened to attack Iran's nuclear sites should peaceful alternatives be exhausted, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterating last month that Israel reserved the right to defend itself from the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Netanyahu laid out demands Sunday in Jerusalem: "One, stop all enrichment of uranium, both 20% and 3%. Two, move all enriched material out of Iran's territory; it is possible to give them alternative material for peaceful purposes. Three, dismantle the illegal facility in Qom."

The Fordo nuclear enrichment plant is in the mountains of Qom province, where Iran says it has 3,000 centrifuges in operation.

"Naturally, we will monitor the talks to see that Iran does not use them in order to deceive the world and continue with its nuclear program," Netanyahu said.

Tehran has threatened to cut off the Strait of Hormuz -- the only shipping lane out of the oil-rich Persian Gulf -- if it is attacked.

In early March, the head of the IAEA said there were indications that Iran was engaged in the development of nuclear weapons.

"Iran is not telling us everything. That is my impression. We are asking Iran to engage with us proactively, and Iran has a case to answer," said Yukiya Amano, the director general of the IAEA.

CNN's Josh Levs and Tim Lister contributed to this report.

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