By SLOBODAN LEKIC, Associated Press
BRUSSELS (AP) — Iranian and international technical experts have exchanged details on proposals to end the standoff over Tehran's controversial nuclear program and a new meeting will be set soon, the European Union said Wednesday.
A statement said the Istanbul-based talks lasted a full day and ended early Wednesday.
The talks followed three rounds of negotiations between Iran and six world powers that have failed to produce a breakthrough.
At the last meeting in Moscow in June it was agreed to set up the experts level meeting, and — if sufficient progress on bridging differences between the two sides was achieved — to then have Iran's No. 2 nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri meet with Helga Schmid, the EU official in charge of the talks.
It was agreed in Istanbul that the two officials would meet but no date has yet been set, said an official who could not be named under EU rules.
The meeting in Istanbul was led by nuclear expert Stephan Klement on behalf of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. The experts came from the six powers — Britain, the United States, the European Union, China, France, Germany and Russia — involved in the talks and collectively known as the E3+3.
The statement said the experts had met with the Iranian team, and "provided further detail of the E3+3 proposal given to Iran in Baghdad (while) Iran shared further detail of their proposal; and the experts explored positions on a number of technical subjects."
The EU, U.S. and other nations suspect Iran's nuclear program is aimed at developing atomic weapons. Iran denies this, and says it is for peaceful purposes, such as producing energy and medical isotopes.
Iran is already under four sets of U.N. sanctions and measures levied by the U.S and tried unsuccessfully to use the Moscow talks to get the sanctions eased.
An EU ban on Iranian oil came into full effect July 1, and analysts expect the sanctions to cut the crude exports of Iran, OPEC's second-largest producer.
The EU embargo, combined with the fresh measures that prohibit the world's banks from completing oil transactions with Iranian banks, significantly ratchet up the pressure on an Iranian economy already squeezed by previous rounds of sanctions.
George Jahn in Vienna contributed to this report.