The European Union's chief interlocutor in atomic discussions with Iran made arrangements on Saturday to "meet soon" with the Persian Gulf power's newly confirmed top diplomat, the Associated Press reported.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has represented six world powers -- China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- in multilateral talks to address fears that Tehran's ostensibly nonmilitary nuclear program is actually aimed at establishing an arms capability. After years of meetings, the sides have gained little traction in clearing up concerns about Tehran's atomic intentions.
Ashton "called the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif today to congratulate him on assuming his new post," her office said in a statement. Lawmakers confirmed Zarif to the position on Thursday, days after his appointment was announced by recently inaugurated President Hassan Rouhani.
The five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany are "ready to work with the new Iranian [nuclear] negotiating team as soon as they [are] appointed," the statement adds. "[Ashton] confirmed the need for substantial talks that will lead to concrete results swiftly."
Zarif on Monday said he had "reiterated" to Ashton that Tehran "is willing to resume talks," Iran's Press TV reported.
Iran possesses thousands more uranium enrichment centrifuges than it had previously publicly stated, AP reported a senior Iranian nuclear official indicating on Saturday, as he stepped down as head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization. The uranium enrichment process could generate fuel for peaceful purposes, as well as nuclear-bomb material, if such a decision were taken.