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Iran, World Powers Set for Talks on Nuclear Issue

World leaders hold nuclear talks Thursday with Iran's top diplomat, amid fresh signs Tehran is looking to negotiate a settlement over its controversial nuclear program.

Most analysts do not expect a breakthrough at the meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. But diplomats hope to agree on a restart of the so-called P5+1 nuclear talks, which were last held in April.

The meeting will mark the highest level interaction between Washington and Tehran in six years and will be one of the very few times senior officials from both countries have met since diplomatic ties were severed in 1980.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif will attend the meeting, as will foreign ministers from Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will host the talks.

The talks comes a day after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he wants a deal on his country's nuclear program in three to six months. President Rouhani told the Washington Post Wednesday the "only way forward" is for a timeline to be inserted into the talks.

Dina Esfandiary with the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies tells VOA such a timeline is unrealistic, given the obstacles to overcome.

"But having said that, the fact that he's pointing out such a short timeline is in itself quite positive, because it means the Iranians are going to willing to really throw everything they have at these negotiations."

Esfandiary says Mr. Rouhani's rapid timeframe for reaching a deal could reflect domestic pressure from those in Iran's government who are skeptical of improved relations with the West.

"It's likely the timeline has more to do with Rouhani's position inside Iran more than anything else. Because that will be the time he has before the conservatives in Iran start to ask him questions about whether he has been able to deliver."

Though Iranian officials have made weeks of conciliatory gestures to the U.S., it is unclear what, if any, concrete proposals the Iranian delegation is prepared to offer regarding its nuclear program.

But Mr. Rouhani told the Post on Wednesday he is willing to allow greater access to U.N. nuclear inspectors to show the world Iran's uranium enrichment program is peaceful.

Echoing recent comments to other U.S. media, Mr. Rouhani also insisted that Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has given him full authority to solve the nuclear issue.

If such a deal could be reached, President Rouhani said it could serve as a "beginning point" toward improving relations with Washington. Regarding U.S.-Iran ties, he said "everything is possible."

Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Rouhani said he was open to meeting with President Barack Obama, but did not shake hands with the U.S. leader at the U.N. this week because the timing was not right.

The United States and Iran have failed to reach a deal during a decade of diplomacy over Tehran's advancing nuclear program, which Washington and some of its allies suspect is aimed at building a bomb.

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