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IRAN NUKE TALKS CALLED 'SUBSTANTIVE'

New York Times

GENEVA - Iran and a group of six world powers said Wednesday that they had engaged in "substantive" and "forward-looking" discussions on the disputed Iranian nuclear program and that they would reconvene in early November.

The account of the two days of talks in Geneva came in a rare joint statement from Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and Catherine Ashton, the foreign policy chief for the European Union, who is the lead negotiator with Iran.

Representatives from the two sides are to meet again in Geneva for talks on Nov. 7 and 8. Nuclear and sanctions experts from the two sides are to meet before then to discuss technical issues.

The meeting was the first between Iran and the six powers since the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, took office in August and vowed to resolve long-standing concerns about the Iranian nuclear program, which Iran says is peaceful but many nations suspect is a guise for developing the ability to make weapons.

In a news conference, Zarif said that the meeting had been "fruitful" and would "hopefully be the beginning of a new phase in our relationship." He said that he hoped the West would take a "balanced" approach, an apparent allusion to Iranian demands for an easing of the tough economic sanctions that have hurt Iran.

Neither Western nor Iranian officials provided any concrete examples of measures that might have been agreed upon. Nor did Iran say it had taken any steps to pause its program to enrich uranium or expand its nuclear infrastructure.

Zarif stated that Iran planned to continue with its nuclear enrichment program while trying assuage Western concerns. But he declined to say whether or when Iran might accept extensive monitoring provided for by a protocol that allows inspections to be carried out when prohibited activity is suspected.

On Tuesday, speaking in English and using PowerPoint, Zarif outlined a proposal to the representatives of the big powers that would constrain his country's nuclear program in return for an acknowledgment of the right to enrich uranium and an easing of the sanctions.

After the discussions, Iran's deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, and his team met for about an hour at the U.N. headquarters here with the U.S. delegation, led by Wendy Sherman, a senior State Department official. The substance was not disclosed, but the meeting itself was unusual.

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