GENEVA – The United States and five other world powers sat down Tuesday for the first talks on Tehran's nuclear program since the election of reformist Iranian President Hassan Rouhani four months ago.
The talks are being seen as a key test of Iran's overtures to the West. The U.S, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany are eager to see whether Iran's new style since Rouhani's election will translate into progress on dispelling concerns that Tehran may want to make nuclear weapons.
Iran has long insisted it does not want such arms and that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, and top Iranian officials have come to the negotiating table saying Tehran is willing to make concessions to end a decade of deadlock. But the U.S. and its allies insist it will take more than words to advance negotiations and end international sanctions crippling Iran's economy.
One immediate change from previous negotiations was the choice of language at the talks. A senior U.S. official said they were being held in English, unlike previous rounds under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani's hard-line predecessor, where Farsi translation was provided. The official demanded anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss any details of the talks.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, a senior member of negotiating team, said Sunday that Tehran is bringing a new proposal to the talks to dispel doubts about the nuclear program. While offering no details, he told Iran's student news agency ISNA that the Islamic Republic should "enter into a trust-building path with the West."
No final deal is expected at the two-day session.
However, if the Iranians succeed in building trust, the talks could be the launching pad for a deal that has proven elusive since negotiations on Iran's nuclear program began in 2003.