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Iran and P5+1 talks continue in Geneva

The second day of talks in Geneva between Iran and the P5+1 group are underway. The powers are expected to press Tehran for details of its proposal to defuse a standoff over its nuclear program.

The negotiations between senior officials from Iran and the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain got under way around 12:30 p.m. (1030 GMT) at UN headquarters in Geneva. The six nations are commonly referred to as the P5+1 because they group the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany.

Regardless of Wednesday's outcome, the group looks set to meet again in the near future. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took to his Facebook page on Wednesday to announce that the group will hold a follow-up round of nuclear negotiations again in a few weeks in Geneva.

On Tuesday, when talks began, Iranian officials said they had proposed a new plan on how to scale back the country's nuclear program, with European Union officials apparently pleased with the focus on specifics. The six powers are likely to press Tehran on Wednesday for further details on this proposal.

Western diplomats stressed they wanted Iran to back up newly conciliatory language with concrete actions such as agreeing to scale back its enrichment of uranium and take steps to show it is not covertly developing the means to produce nuclear bombs.

The talks have ended a six-month freeze sparked by Iran's refusal to curb uranium enrichment in exchange for easing international sanctions. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Arakchi described the first day of talks as "positive," simultaneously saying all proposals were "confidential."

"For the first time, very detailed technical discussions continued this afternoon," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton's spokesman, Michael Mann, said. "But there's still an awful lot of work to be done."

First talks in Rouhani era

Iran has long faced international pressure to scale back its nuclear program, and is subject to economic sanctions for its perceived nuclear ambitions. Iran's critics, not least Israel, have previously alleged the country was seeking nuclear weapons, while the government in Tehran claimed it sought only atomic energy.

The June election of relative moderate President Hassan Rouhani and his pledges to smooth Tehran's international relations raised hopes for a negotiated solution to the standoff.

Hopes were raised further last month when US President Barack Obama and Rouhani spoke by telephone, which marked the highest-level contact between the two countries since Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Israel has warned the West not to ease sanctions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly in early October that he did not trust Iran's new president, calling him a "wolf in sheep's clothing."

hc/mkg (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)