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Key Nuclear Negotiator to Travel to Iran on Saturday

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Mohammad Zarif deliver remarks in Vienna last month, at the end of a multilateral meeting on Iran's nuclear program. Ashton is expected to travel to Tehran on Saturday, Iranian state media reported. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Mohammad Zarif deliver remarks in Vienna last month, at the end of a multilateral meeting on Iran's nuclear program. Ashton is expected to travel to Tehran on Saturday, Iranian state media reported. (Dieter Nagl/AFP/Getty Images)

A top representative for six countries in nuclear talks with Iran plans to travel to the Middle Eastern nation on Saturday, Iranian state media reports.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton's trip to the Persian Gulf regional power would include meetings with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and other high-level personnel, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi stated in comments reported by the Islamic Republic News Agency.

Ashton has represented the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany in negotiations aimed at eliminating fears that Iran is secretly pursuing a nuclear-arms capability. Her visit would be the first to the Middle Eastern by any top EU diplomat since 2008, and would take place about two weeks after the "P-5+1" nations and Tehran finalized an agenda for five months of discussions aimed at defusing the standoff.

Her visit could fall between atomic discussions between lower-ranking technical specialists from each side and another high-level political meeting, which is scheduled to start on March 17. Both gatherings would take place in Vienna.

Araqchi said the expert-level exchange is scheduled to begin on Wednesday and continue until at least Friday or Saturday. He added that the session would focus on a longstanding dispute over Iran's uranium-enrichment operations, as well as global concerns about the nation's unfinished Arak heavy-water reactor.

Washington and its allies strongly suspect Iran is pursuing both projects as potential means to produce fuel for nuclear warheads, should it ever decide to do so. Tehran, though, has maintained over the years that its atomic activities are geared strictly toward nonmilitary endeavors.

Meanwhile, an Iranian legislator said his nation plans in coming weeks to begin building a "second nuclear power plant" in Bushehr province, the state-run Fars News Agency reported.

An Iranian diplomat last month suggested Russia could accept oil from Tehran in exchange for constructing a second reactor at Iran's atomic-energy facility located near the Bushehr provincial capital.

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