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Iran says six powers to meet before more nuclear talks

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said on Wednesday he and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton had agreed to defer more nuclear talks until she has consulted the six world powers she represents next week.

Jalili said his talks with Ashton had been constructive.

"We evaluated the common points and what we could do for further cooperation and future meetings," Jalili told a news conference in Istanbul, after meeting Ashton late on Tuesday.

He said they had agreed to renew contact after Ashton has met the six powers seeking to rein in Iran's nuclear programme.

The United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain have sought to persuade Iran to scale back its nuclear work by intensifying economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure.

They fear Iran is developing an atomic bomb capability, but Tehran says its nuclear programme has only peaceful purposes.

Ashton is expected to meet the six powers on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week.

Though three rounds of talks with Iran since April have made little progress, neither side wants to stop negotiating because of concerns that a breakdown of diplomacy could lead to war.

Israel, believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed state, says any Iranian atom bomb would threaten its existence and that it may attack Iran if diplomacy and sanctions fail.

In Vienna, the head of Israel's atomic energy commission said Iran carried out its nuclear activities "with impunity" as international measures had no effect on the programme.

"Iran is utterly indifferent to decisions and wishes of the international community," Shaul Chorev told the annual assembly of the 155-nation International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

But, he said, "Israel is competent to deter its enemies and to defend itself." (Reporting by Jonathon Burch and Yeganeh Torbati; Additional reporting by Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Alistair Lyon)