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December 5 offered for talks on Iran's nuclear program

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: U.S. says Iran's nuclear talk meetings likely to start in central Europe
  • Iran proposed to restart the talks, which have been on hold for over a year
  • The European Union's foreign policy chief is offering to meet Iran on Dec. 5

London, England (CNN) -- The European Union's foreign policy chief is offering to meet Iran early next month for talks on the Islamic republic's nuclear program, a European diplomat told CNN on Friday.

Catherine Ashton will propose that the meetings -- which would involve representatives from the United States, China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and Germany, as well as Iran -- occur December 5 somewhere in Europe, and could last as many as three days, the diplomat said.

P.J. Crowley, the spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said Friday that the first meeting is likely to be held in Europe, noting that Ashton had recommended Austria or Switzerland.

The United States is open to Turkey for another meeting, Crowley said.

"Istanbul could still be a location for a second, follow-on meeting," Crowley said in a press briefing Friday. "But the general consensus is that ... the first meeting should be somewhere in central Europe."

Iran made an offer through Turkey for a new round of talks, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, and one of its proposed dates was December 5. A diplomat, who asked for anonymity because the letter with the offer hasn't yet been sent to Iran, said the follow-up meeting would be held in Istanbul.

These moves stem from Iran's proposal for a new round of talks after more than a year without formal discussions between the Islamic state and the international group known as the P5 plus 1.

The talks have been on hold since October 1, 2009, when the two groups last met in Geneva, Switzerland.

Washington and other countries fear Iran wants to develop nuclear weapons technology, but Tehran denies it.

Iran's actions may be a sign that Tehran is feeling the bite of increased sanctions imposed in recent months to force the Iranians to return to talks.

Iran is now subject to four sets of U.N. sanctions, while the United States and the EU have also imposed separate penalties on Iran over its refusal to stop enriching uranium.

CNN's Per Nyberg contributed to this report