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Official: EU open to Iran talks as embargo looms

Associated Press

BRUSSELS (AP) – The EU’s foreign policy chief said Monday that the international community remains open to talks with Iran, even as an EU embargo on Iranian oil seems set to be approved Monday.

Catherine Ashton said in a statement that the international community _ specifically, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the U.S., Russia and China _ have “a continued willingness to engage” with Iran regarding that country’s nuclear program.

Ashton also released the text of a letter she sent in October to Saeed Jalili, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator. The letter said Ashton’s overall goal is a negotiated solution that “restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”

The letter was dated Oct. 21. Ashton said she has received no reply. Officials in many other countries fear Iran is working to develop nuclear weapons _ something Iran denies.

Meanwhile, diplomats said Friday that EU foreign ministers meeting Monday in Brussels will likely approve a ban on buying Iranian oil, even though working out the details of the embargo will be left for later. The embargo would immediately prohibit the signing of any new oil contracts with Iran.

However, important details on the embargo would likely still remain to be negotiated. Those include the date by which existing contracts to buy Iranian oil would no longer be held to be valid, and the nature of a review of the effects so far of the embargo prior to that date.

The U.K., Germany and France are eager for a strong embargo on Iranian oil to be implemented quickly. But Greece, which has deep financial troubles, benefits from low prices it pays for Iranian oil, and it wants assurances that the embargo will not become a financial burden it cannot bear.

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