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Iran, U.N. Powers Finalize Agenda for Nuclear Negotiations

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad  Zarif participate in a Thursday discussion on Iran's disputed nuclear activities. Iran is slated on March 17 to begin its next high-level meeting with the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif participate in a Thursday discussion on Iran's disputed nuclear activities. Iran is slated on March 17 to begin its next high-level meeting with the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany. (Dieter Nagl/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran and six other countries hammered out plans for discussing how they might defuse a long-running atomic standoff, the Wall Street Journal reports.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton announced the development on Thursday, the last of three days of initial talks on a long-term pact between Tehran and the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany. She  -- and said the sides have made arrangements for a March 17-20 meeting in Vienna.

The negotiating parties are to hold a high-level gathering roughly once each month for four months, with a July goal for finalizing a long-term resolution to disputes on Iran's nuclear program, a Western envoy said. Washington and its allies want to address concerns that Iran's atomic assets could support nuclear-weapons development, and Tehran is pushing to eliminate sanctions that have increasingly crimped the Iranian economy. The Middle Eastern power maintains it has no atomic-arms aspirations.

A high-level U.S. government insider said that "every issue of concern to us is on the table," including Iran's ballistic-missile efforts, as well as indications that the nation once conducted studies that could help it weaponize its nuclear program, the New York Times reported.

Ashton, who has represented the "P-5+1" nations in the talks, said next month's senior-level meeting would be preceded by a gathering of "technical experts" from the negotiating governments, Agence France-Presse reported.

"We have ... identified all of the issues we need to address for a comprehensive and final agreement," the Associated Press quoted her as saying. "It won't be easy, but we've gotten off to a good start."

One Western diplomat added that Ashton is expected to discuss the next round of planned negotiations during a March 9-10 visit to the Iranian capital.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration's top Iran negotiator plans to discuss the dialogue with officials in Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the State Department said on Thursday. U.S. Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is expected to lead the meetings over a five-day period, beginning on Friday.

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Iran

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