(Adds comments from U.S. official, information about drive for
new sanctions in U.S. Congress paragraphs 2-5)
By Louis Charbonneau and Justyna Pawlak
UNITED NATIONS/BRUSSELS Jan 27 - The opening
round of talks between Iran and six world powers on a long-term
deal for Tehran to curb parts of its nuclear program in exchange
for a gradual end to sanctions is expected to take place next
month in New York, a U.S. official said on Monday.
"It is our understanding that the first round of
comprehensive negotiations will be in New York in mid-February
with dates still being confirmed," U.S. State Department
spokeswoman Marie Harf said in an email.
"New York - agreed to by EU High Representative (Catherine)
Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister (Mohammad Javad) Zarif - has
a similar support infrastructure to Geneva," Harf said. "We
believe that United Nations and international support is
important for work on a comprehensive agreement."
A senior Western diplomat told Reuters that the six powers
were looking at the early part of the week of Feb. 16, though
the talks were unlikely to begin before Feb. 18 due to a U.S.
In Washington, congressional aides said an attempt to impose
new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program has stalled in
the U.S. Congress and lawmakers were discussing whether to
introduce a much weaker measure.
Last week the United States and the European Union began
following through on promised sanctions relief for Iran covering
oil exports, trade in precious metals and automotive services as
part of a nuclear agreement signed in November that began taking
effect on Jan. 20, U.S. officials said.
In exchange for steps that Tehran had taken to halt its most
sensitive nuclear-related activity, the White House said the
United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the
European Union will "follow through on our commitment to begin
to provide the modest relief agreed to with Iran."
Last week, a U.S. official said Iran was currently exporting
about 60 percent less oil than it was two years ago and would be
held to those reduced levels.
Iran is under U.S., EU and U.N. Security Council sanctions
for refusing to halt uranium enrichment and other sensitive
atomic work that could help it develop weapons.
Tehran rejects allegations from Western nations and their
allies that it is seeking the capability to produce nuclear
arms, insisting its atomic ambitions are limited to the peaceful
generation of electricity.
The Nov. 24 interim deal between Iran and the five permanent
U.N. Security Council members plus Germany took nearly two
months to hammer out in three rounds of talks in Geneva late
last year. Western diplomats say that negotiations on a
long-term deal will likely take much longer.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last week at the World
Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that Iran is determined to
negotiate a comprehensive deal on its nuclear program with the
six world powers so it can develop its battered economy,
inviting Western companies to seize opportunities now.
The Nov. 24 interim deal is valid for six months, though it
can be renewed based on mutual agreement.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau and Justyna Pawlak; Editing by
James Dalgleish and David Gregorio)