Iran suggests Cairo as venue for next nuclear talks

DUBAI Wed Jan 23, 2013 1:42pm GMT

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi speaks during a news conference following his meeting with Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, Egyptian Imam of al-Azhar Mosque, in Cairo January 10, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi speaks during a news conference following his meeting with Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, Egyptian Imam of al-Azhar Mosque, in Cairo January 10, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran has proposed Cairo as the venue for the next nuclear talks with world powers, its foreign minister said on Wednesday without indicating when the meeting, aimed at defusing a standoff with the West, would happen.

"When I was in Egypt ... it was suggested that the next meeting be held in Cairo," Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying by the Iranian Students' News Agency.

"This issue was welcomed by our dear friends in Egypt and Egypt will consult with the P5+1 (group of countries) for hosting this meeting."

Holding the talks in Egypt could indicate warming ties between Cairo and Tehran, two of the Middle East's most influential countries.

After decades of frozen relations with former President Hosni Mubarak, Iran has courted his successor, the Islamist Mohamed Mursi, although opposing views on the Syrian civil war have prevented a rapid rapprochement.

Salehi visited Cairo for talks with Mursi on January 10.

There was no immediate comment from EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents world powers in dealings with Tehran.

The last talks between Iran and the P5+1 - the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany - were held in Moscow in June but failed to resolve the nuclear standoff that has led to crippling sanctions against Tehran which the West fears is seeking atomic weapons capability.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who won a new term in office this week, has said he would not let that happen and has often suggested the Jewish state could use pre-emptive strikes against Iran if diplomacy fails.

Iran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons technology and says its atomic work is for peaceful, civilian purposes.

Both Iran and P5+1 - the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia - say they want to resume talks.

However, the two sides' priorities diverge: the P5+1 wants to curb Iran's work to potentially develop atomic weapons, while Iran wants sanctions scrapped and to have its "right" to enrich uranium formally recognised.

Western diplomats and Iranian media have said talks might take place next week, but that the venue had not been agreed.

(Additional reporting by Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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