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Iran, powers must end nuclear talks deadlock: FM

TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran's foreign minister said on Monday that it was time to end the country's long standoff with world powers over its disputed nuclear programme.

"The parties have reached a conclusion that they must exit the current deadlock," Ali Akbar Salehi told the ISNA news agency.

The six major powers engaging Iran over its nuclear work said in late November they wanted to soon hold a new round of talks with Tehran.

Iran is yet to make any official comment on the request.

Their last round of talks in June yielded no breakthrough in Moscow, as Iran rejected a proposal by world powers to suspend part of its programme and asked for a more substantial sanctions relief in return.

Salehi said he had "no information" when the next round would take place, but expressed hope that negotiations would continue.

However, US State Department Victoria Nuland said "the ball's in the Iranians' court. If they want to come back to the table, we are ready to do that. But we want to see them be serious."

She said the so-called P5+1 -- the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain -- had made an offer for the timing and venue for the next round of talks with Iran "but we have yet to hear from the Iranians on this."

Salehi's comments came days after Iran and the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency wrapped up talks in Tehran over a "structured approach" for the Islamic republic to address allegations of weaponisation.

In an interview with Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alam satellite network, top lawmaker Aladin Boroujerdi hinted that the next round of talks with the P5+1 would be held after negotiations with the IAEA on January 16.

"Based on the IAEA meeting, we will talk with the West and discuss details for negotiations with the P5+1," said Boroujerdi, who heads parliament's foreign policy commission, the Fars news agency reported.

Decisions on Iran's nuclear programme rest with Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose representative Saeed Jalili at Iran's Supreme National Security Council handles talks with world powers.

Jalili's office has not made any comments on the P5+1's latest offer of talks.

Western powers accuse Iran of seeking to acquire a weapons capability under the guise of its nuclear energy programme. Iran denies the charge, saying its work is for peaceful purposes only.

US envoy to IAEA Robert Wood warned on November 29 that Washington would push for the agency's board to refer Iran to the UN Security Council if Tehran displays no "substantive cooperation" with the agency by March.