Kerry, Zarif, Ashton start nuclear talks in Oman: witness

MUSCAT (Reuters) - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif began talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European Union envoy Catherine Ashton in Oman on Sunday to try to advance efforts to end a standoff over Tehran's nuclear programme, a witness said.

The discussions, aimed at curbing Iran?s sensitive uranium enrichment work in return for a gradual lifting of sanctions, are taking place just two weeks before a self-imposed Nov. 24 deadline for reaching a comprehensive deal. Iranian official media also reported the start of the Muscat talks.

The West suspects Iran has covertly sought to develop the means to build nuclear weapons, but the Islamic Republic says its programme is entirely for peaceful purposes.

(Reporting by Warren Strobel, Parisa Hafezi and Fatma Al-Araimi, Editing by William Maclean)