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EU contacts Iran over nuclear dispute

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(BRUSSELS) - The EU, leading diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme, has talked to Tehran to bring it up to date on the latest discussions, officials said Thursday.

The EU's Deputy Secretary-General Helga Schmid and Dr. Ali Bagheri, Deputy Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, talked on the phone Wednesday, a spokesman for EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton said.

"The call took place in the context of ongoing diplomatic efforts ... towards a diplomatic solution of the Iranian nuclear issue which the High Representative of the European Union is leading," he said.

The call "was used to inform Iran" about a meeting between the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany in New York on September 27, he said.

They had "stressed their determination to work for a diplomatic solution and the need for Iran to engage urgently in a confidence building process aimed at resolving international concerns about the nature of its nuclear programme", the spokesman added.

Last week, European Union foreign ministers agreed tough new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme, which the West says is aimed at building an atomic bomb but which Tehran insists is for peaceful ends only.

Ashton, who represents global powers in talks with Iran on its nuclear programme, said at the time that the sanctions aimed "to persuade Iran to come to the (negotiating) table".

Ashton's spokesman said that Wednesday's call would be followed by another between her and the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Dr. (Said) Jalili "in order to discuss the next steps in our negotiations".

Jalili and Ashton met in Istanbul on September 18 and briefed the September 27 meeting in New York on what was discussed.

The European Parliament meanwhile announced that five MEPs would visit Iran next week, the fourth in regular meetings with its Iranian counterpart.

"The delegation will follow up on the dialogue branch of the EU's twin-track approach to Iran of sanctions and dialogue and stress the EU's commitment to human rights by raising concerns directly with decision-makers and civil society representatives," said Tarja Cronberg, chair of the Parliament's delegation for relations with Iran.

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