Iran nuclear talks begin with 'cautious optimism'


EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton (L) speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif before two days of closed-door nuclear talks on October 15, 2013 in Geneva.



GENEVA, Switzerland — Talks in Geneva over Iran's nuclear program kicked off on Tuesday, and were greeted with an air of "cautious optimism."

"We think that the proposal we have made has the capacity to make a breakthrough," chief negotiator and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Aragchi told reporters after an hour-long PowerPoint presentation.

"We are very serious. We are not here symbolically, to waste our time. We are serious for target-oriented negotiations," Aragchi said.

"We have seen some positive mood music coming out of Tehran," European Union official Michael Mann said to reporters. "But of course the most important thing is that they actually follow it up with concrete proposals that address our concerns."

The two-day talks, between Iran and the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany (P5 + 1), are the first since the election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Rouhani is seen as a moderate, compared to his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Earlier this month, Rouhani defended Iran's 'fundamental right' to enrich uranium.

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Iran reportedly owns more than 10,000 centrifuges capable of enriching uranium, but insists that it is not looking to build a nuclear weapon.

Instead, Iran claims it is looking to create a peaceful nuclear energy program, though it has resisted efforts by international inspectors to back its claims.

Western fears over Iran's nuclear program have resulted in harsh sanctions cutting into an already troubled economy.

A senior US official spoke to Reuters anonymously, hinting that some sanctions on Iran could be loosened if it allayed fears that it was building a weapon.

That sentiment was met with disdain from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said this week that easing pressure would be a "historic mistake."

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