Iran, world powers to huddle at U.N.

US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Egypt's Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy in New York September 22, 2013.

Story highlights

  • Ashton, Iranian diplomat met Monday
  • Iran's nuclear aspirations have been controversial
  • Hassan Rouhani, Iran's president, says: "End unhealthy rivalries"

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet with the group known as the P5 plus 1 on Thursday during his visit to the United Nations, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Monday.

The P5 plus 1 includes Germany and the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States, Russia, China, France, and Britain.

There has been friction between Iran and Western nations over the country's nuclear aspirations and Iran's backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime in that country's civil war.

But world powers have been searching for ways to tackle both topics.

After Zarif sat down with Ashton on Monday morning, she spoke to reporters about her first face-to-face meeting with the diplomat.

"As you know I spoke to him several times over the summer but this was the first opportunity for us to meet face to face," Ashton said. "We talked about a number of important issues, but focused on the nuclear issue. We had a good and constructive discussion."

She said there will be a "short discussion" at the meeting this week. Ashton said she and Zarif agreed that they will meet in October "with our teams in Geneva" Switzerland.

Zarif was to meet with British Foreign Minister William Hague at 3 p.m. Monday in a closed-door meeting, a Western diplomat confirmed.

Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, has been making overtures toward the West that some analysts term as a charm offensive and others see as an opportunity for the West and Iran to forge a deal on the country's nuclear weapons.

Tehran says it wants to develop nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes, but Western nations have long said that Iran is intent on developing nuclear weapons.

The dispute about why Iran is seeking nuclear capability -- for energy or for bombs -- has prompted international sanctions and escalated concerns about additional warfare in the Middle East.

"We must work together to end the unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart," Rouhani said in an op-ed column last week in the Washington Post.