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Geneva talks on Iran's nukes upbeat

Two days of talks on Iran's nuclear program in Geneva have ended in optimistic assessments from Western diplomats. Russia remains cautious. The five UN veto powers and Germany are to meet again with Iran November 7-8.

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Progress at Iran nuclear talks

High-stakes nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers adjourned with upbeat remarks from Western diplomats on Wednesday. Russia warned, however, that there was "no reason to break into applause."

The talks, the first since Iran's newly-elected moderate president, Hassan Rowhani, took office in August were adjourned until early November, with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton saying the talks had been "substantive and forward looking."

Iran had presented "an outline of a plan as a proposed basis for negotiation," Ashton said while accompanied by chief diplomats from Britain, France, China, Russia, the United States and Germany – known as the P5+1 because five are permanent members of the UN Security Council.

'Sequencing' main issue

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying "things could have worked out better."

The main outstanding difficulty was a lack of understanding about "sequencing" restraints on Iran's nuclear program and the removal of harsh Western economic sanctions which have crippled Iran.

World powers insist that sanctions can only be lifted after Iran halts uranium enrichment and allow international supervision of its facilities. Iran wants the sanctions lifted first.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said "both sides are serious about finding a solution."

"We sense that members of the [six powers] also have exhibited the necessary political will in order to move the process forward. Now we need to get to the details," Zarif said.

'Candid,' says US diplomat

A senior US delegation official in Geneva was quoted by Reuters as saying that this week's talks were notable.

"I have never had such intense, detailed, straightforward, candid conversations with the Iranian delegation before," he said.

Ashton, who presided over the talks, said the P5+1 powers would carefully examine Iran's proposals.

This week's talks were "the most detailed we have ever had, by, I would say, a long way."

Western powers have repeatedly said that Iran must suspend its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent fissile purity, their main worry, before sanctions are eased.

Israel, Iran's arch foe, has urged the powers to demand a total shutdown of Iran's enrichment program and opposes any early relaxation of sanctions.

Previous talks were virtually paralyzed during the eight-year term of Iran's former hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Western powers believed Iran wanted to produce bomb grade nuclear fuel. Iran said it only wanted to generate electricity and produce isotopes for medicine.

ipj/kms (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)

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