EU's top diplomat Ashton to meet Iran's new nuclear negotiator, foreign minister Zarif

The European Union's foreign policy chief says she will meet Iran's newly appointed negotiator on the country's disputed nuclear program later this month.

A spokesman said Friday Catherine Ashton called Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and they agreed to meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Iran's new president Hasan Rouhani confirmed Thursday that Zarif — a Western-educated diplomat — will lead nuclear talks with world powers, marking a shift away from the often more hawkish security officials who have previously set the negotiation strategy.

Ashton is part of the negotiations between the permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany with Iran on the nuclear program.

Western governments maintain Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons but Tehran insists its program serves only civilian purposes.