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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Ashton hopes Iranian reshuffle does not delay Iran Six talks

RIA Novosti

23:43 13/12/2010 BRUSSELS, December 13 (RIA Novosti) - EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton expressed concern on Monday that the dismissal of Iran's foreign minister would delay the forthcoming meeting of the Iran Six in Istanbul.

Following the latest round of talks in Geneva on December 6-7, the Iran Six group of international mediators (Russia, the United States, China, Britain, France and Germany) agreed to reconvene in Istanbul at the end of January.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki earlier on Monday and temporarily replaced him with the country's atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi. Spectators say the move is a signal to the West that Iran is not willing to relinquish its nuclear program.

The Iranian media has been saying for the past year that Mottaki would be dismissed if a new round of UN sanctions was placed on the Islamic Republic. The UN Security Council implemented a fourth round of sanctions on Iran in June.

The West, led by the United States, suspects Iran of pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program, but the Islamic Republic insists it needs nuclear power solely for civilian purposes.

The Iran Six has been trying since 2003 to convince Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program and to alleviate concerns about its nuclear ambitions.

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