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London (AFP) Feb 20, 2013
World powers will make Iran an offer with "significant new elements" in a bid to resolve the dispute over its nuclear programme at talks next week in Kazakhstan, a western diplomat said Wednesday.
The next round of talks with Iran under the '5+1' format -- UN Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany -- will be held on February 26 in Almaty after a long gap.
"We will take an offer with us which we believe to be a serious and substantial offer," the western diplomat told reporters in London, on condition of anonymity.
"This is an offer which we think has significant new elements in it."
But the diplomat refused to give any specifics of the new offer, following reports that the major powers could ease sanctions on Iran's trade in gold and other precious metals in return for the closure of a uranium enrichment plant.
The western official also played down the chances of an immediate breakthrough in the talks over Iran's nuclear programme, which Iran insists is peaceful but which western powers say is designed to produce nuclear weapons.
"We are approaching the talks with a sense of urgency but this is not necessarily a sprint," said the diplomat.
Four rounds of tough UN sanctions on Iran coupled with separate measures by the United States and EU have affected the country's economy but that will not guarantee a positive Iranian response at the talks, the official added.
"The centrifuges keep spinning and the sanctions keep biting," the diplomat said.
The talks aim to address a key Western concern about Iran's capacity to enrich uranium to fissile purities of 20 percent.
EU, Russia call for flexibility from Iran
EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton said after meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that both sides "expressed hope that Iran will come to these negotiations with flexibility and that we can make substantial progress".
"We remain determined to work towards a solution of the Iranian nuclear issue and the key is for Iran to comply fully with its international obligations," Ashton said in a statement.
The next round of talks with Iran under the '5+1' format -- UN Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany -- will be held on February 26 in Kazakhstan after a long gap and failed meetings in Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow.
Iran insists that its nuclear programme is peaceful and that it has every right to pursue it under current international conventions.
The United States has led charges that Tehran instead is intent on obtaining nuclear weapons.
Washington has helped put in place a tough sanctions regime backed by the EU to try to force Iran to allow full access to its facilities.
Ashton said she had also discussed Syria with Lavrov, with both backing the work of UN Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi in trying to resolve the bloody conflict in the country.
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