A two-day meeting in Geneva kicked off Tuesday between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany. The six nations are commonly referred to as the P5+1 because they group the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Arakchi described the talks as "positive" on Tuesday, simultaneously saying all proposals were "confidential." A US official in the team led by Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, speaking on condition of anonymity, was also cautiously optimistic.
"The discussion was useful, and we look forward to continuing our discussions in tomorrow's meetings with the full P5+1 and Iran," the State Department employee said.
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.
"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 stand-off.
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 and nobody in the West should either.
"Rouhani is a wolf in sheep's clothing. A wolf who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community. But, like everyone else, I wish we could believe Rouhani's words, but we must focus on Iran's action," Netanyahu said.
msh, hc/ccp (AFP, Reuters)