World powers and Iran have said the first day of nuclear negotiations have gone well, but have warned of tough talks ahead. The P5+1 group is seeking to reach a lasting agreement to curb Tehran's nuclear program.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told reporters in Vienna on Tuesday that talks got off to a "very good beginning," but tempered expectations by saying that even if the negotiations end with nothing more than a future agenda "we've accomplished a lot."
However he also drew a red line on how far Tehran would go in the landmark talks by saying, "Dismantling [the] nuclear program is not on the agenda."
Negotiators have gathered in the Austrian capital to build on a November deal that came into effect last month and commits Iran to initial curbs on its nuclear program in return for some easing of sanctions. The deal can be extended, if both sides agree to do so in six months time.
The talks – held between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the US, China, Russia, Britain and France) plus Germany - are formally led by Catherine Ashton, the EU's top foreign policy official, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Ashton's spokesman, Michael Mann, warned of the "intensive and difficult work lying ahead of us."
Many nations suspect that Iran has long sought nuclear weapons, despite Tehran's insistence that its nuclear program has the pure purpose of providing energy.
Negotiators are seeking an agreement to dilute or convert Iran’s stockpile of higher enriched uranium that can be turned quickly into weapons-grade material such as the fissile core of a nuclear missile.
In order to achieve this, they say Iran must dismantle most of its 20,000 uranium enriching centrifuges.
However, Iran has said it will not cede its "right" to install advanced centrifuges to refine uranium.
The meeting in the Austrian capital is the first in an expected series of negotiations over the coming months. Details of Tuesday's talks were not given, but such negotiations were inconceivable before the 2013 election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate.
hc/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)