UNITED NATIONS — The United States and its European allies said Thursday they were pleased by a new tone and a significant shift in attitude from Iran in talks aimed at resolving the impasse over the country's disputed nuclear activities.
Iran said it was eager to dispel suspicions that it is trying to develop a nuclear weapon and to get punishing international sanctions lifted as fast as possible.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who also had an unexpected one-on-one meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, said six world powers and Iran had agreed to fast-track nuclear negotiations with the hope of reaching a deal within a year.
Iran, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany also agreed to hold a new round of substantive nuclear negotiations on Oct. 15-16 in Geneva.
"We agreed to jump-start the process so that we could move forward with a view to agreeing first on the parameters of the end game … and move toward finalizing it hopefully within a year's time," Zarif said after the talks ended. "I thought I was too ambitious, bordering on naivete. But I saw that some of my colleagues were even more ambitious and wanted to do it faster."
Kerry said he was struck by a "very different tone" from Tehran after their sessions, which marked the highest-level direct contact between the United States and Iran in six years. But, like his European colleagues, he stressed that a single meeting was not enough to assuage international concerns that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian atomic energy program.
He said they agreed to continue the process and try to find concrete ways to answer the questions that people have about Iran's nuclear activities.
Zarif said the meetings were "very constructive" and "very substantive."