US and Iran in direct nuclear talks

Negotiators hold "significant conversation" in highest level meeting for 30 years.

    Tehran is under three sets of UN sanctions over its refusal to freeze its enrichment activities [EPA]

    ISNA said Jalili had also stressed to the US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany the need for complete global disarmament and called for strategies to achieve that aim to be put into place.

    Bilateral talks

    The bilateral talks between Iran and the US appeared to be concrete proof of the commitment from Barack Obama, the US president, to engage Iran directly on nuclear and other issues, in a sharp break with the previous Bush administration.

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    Iran-US bilateral talks have been rare since the two nations broke diplomatic relations nearly 30 years ago, following the Iranian revolution and the ensuing US embassy hostage crisis.

    US and Iranian negotiators met in Baghdad two years ago to discuss Iraq, but those were three-way talks hosted by Iraq.

    Earlier on Thursday, a US state department spokesman said that if Iran was willing to address the nuclear issues, then there probably would be subsequent meetings.

    "That process will take some time," PJ Crowley said.

    "We're not going to make a snap judgment on Thursday. We're going to see how that meeting goes, evaluate the willingness of Iran to engage on these issues."

    Iran and world powers have agreed to hold another round of talks before the end of the month, Iran's state-owned Press TV reported on Thursday.

    'Complex area'

    The meetings in Geneva come a week after the disclosure of a second Iranian uranium enrichment plant raised tensions over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

    Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes and has already defied five UN Security Council resolutions demanding it suspend all sensitive nuclear activities.

    Speaking to Al Jazeera, John Large, an independent nuclear consultant, said: "It's quite a complex area to actually decipher whether the effort is going into a civilian programme or into a military programme.

    "There are the associated industries like the missile delivery systems, the development of missiles, we have seen the launch this week of quite sophisticated missile delivery systems.

    "So you're looking at all the jigsaw pieces coming into place and I'm afraid the conclusion that is coming out of this is that these jigsaw pieces mean that there is a strong weapons programme underway."

    Tehran is already under three sets of UN sanctions over its repeated refusal to freeze its uranium enrichment activities, which Western powers fear are aimed at building a nuclear bomb.

    Washington has suggested possible new sanctions on banking and the oil and gas industry if Iran does not comply with Western demands, but Thursday's talks are not expected to end in a new round of sanctions.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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