Iran says powers receptive to ideas for ending nuclear stand-off
GENEVA (Reuters) - Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Tuesday world powers were receptive to Tehran's proposals for easing the stand-off over its nuclear program and details would be discussed in the afternoon.
The minister, speaking to reporters after Iran made a PowerPoint presentation at the start of a two-day meeting with the six powers in Geneva, said the atmosphere in the discussions had been "positive". He gave no details of the proposals, describing them as "confidential".
In subsequent comments made only to Iranian media, Araqchi said any final agreement should eliminate all sanctions on Iran and enable it to continue to enrich uranium, according to the ISNA news agency.
But he did not go into detail on what Iran might be willing to offer in return, apart from transparency and monitoring by the U.N. nuclear watchdog. He also said a religious decree by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei banning nuclear weapons should be "used as the most important confidence-building step".
Michael Mann, spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who leads the negotiations on behalf of world powers, said the Iranian presentation had been "very useful". Mann did not elaborate.
Western diplomats were not immediately available for comment. They had earlier called on Iran to put forward concrete proposals to allay their concerns about the Islamic state's nuclear energy program, which the West fears may aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability. Iran denies this.
The six powers - the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany - want Iran to curb sensitive nuclear uranium enrichment. Iran wants them to ease tough energy and banking sanctions that have severely restricted its vital oil exports.
"There is a positive atmosphere. Our plan was given and it's planned that in the afternoon we will discuss more details, but the first reactions were good," Araqchi told reporters after the morning session broke for lunch.
"It's a completely realistic, balanced and logical plan." Talks were due to resume around 3 p.m. (1300 GMT).
The Geneva talks, the first since relative moderate Hassan Rouhani was elected Iran's president in June on a platform to ease its international isolation, is seen as the best chance for years to defuse a festering stand-off over Iran's nuclear ambitions that has heightened the risk of a new Middle East war.