Catherine Ashton meets with Iraqi deputy prime minister Hussein al-Shahristani, in Baghdad on June 17, 2013
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton meets with Iraqi deputy prime minister Hussein al-Shahristani, in Baghdad on June 17, 2013. Ashton landed in Baghdad for talks with Iraqi officials, with Iran's disputed nuclear programme and the bloody conflict in Syria high on the agenda. © Sabah Arar - AFP
Catherine Ashton meets with Iraqi deputy prime minister Hussein al-Shahristani, in Baghdad on June 17, 2013
AFP
Last updated: June 17, 2013

EU's Ashton talks Iran and Syria in Iraq

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton pledged on Monday during a trip to Baghdad to press Iran for greater cooperation over its nuclear programme after Tehran elected a new president.

Ashton also discussed the bloody conflict in Iraq's western neighbour Syria during talks with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other top officials, including Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and Deputy Prime Minister responsible for energy affairs Hussein al-Shahristani.

"I will continue to do my work to urge Iran to work closely with me, and the E3+3, to build confidence in the nature of their nuclear programme," Ashton told journalists in Baghdad, referring to the group of global powers that are negotiating with Iran over the programme.

It comes just days after moderate cleric Hassan Rowhani was declared Iran's new president, with world powers offering a cautious welcome amid persistent concerns over Tehran's nuclear programme.

Western powers and Israel believe the programme is being used to develop an atomic bomb, but Iran insists it is for peaceful purposes.

Ashton has previously said she was committed to working with Rowhani to find a "swift diplomatic solution" to the disputed programme.

Ashton serves as chief negotiator for the six world powers -- the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany -- seeking to check Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Syria, meanwhile, has been locked in a bloody conflict since 2011 between President Bashar al-Assad and opposition rebels, with more than 93,000 people having been killed, according to the United Nations.

Iraq has sought to publicly avoid taking sides in the conflict, but Washington has accused Baghdad of turning a blind eye to flights travelling through Iraqi airspace carrying military equipment from Iran for Assad's regime.

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