Iranian and international negotiators are set to continue key talks Thursday that officials on both sides say could lead to an eventual deal limiting Iran's nuclear activities, in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.
The Geneva talks, which convened Wednesday, are building on a first round of negotiations that ended two weeks ago without visible signs of progress. Analysts say those talks failed, in large part because France -- one of six governments at the talks -- said the preliminary deal under consideration did not sufficiently curb Iran's uranium enrichment program.
Wednesday's talks resumed as political leaders in Tehran and in the West sought to highlight their respective positions and assure their constituencies that their envoys will not compromise on basic demands.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in an address Wednesday, said the Tehran government "will not step back one iota" from what it insists is an absolute right to enrich uranium.
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry vowed that the United States will not accept any deal that lets Iran buy time to increase its nuclear capability.
The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, along with Germany, want an interim agreement that calls for Iran to stop some of its enrichment activity and accept more inspections in return for limited sanctions relief.
The White House on Tuesday described the current talks as "an opportunity to halt the progress on the Iranian program...while testing whether a comprehensive resolution can be achieved."
That statement came after President Barack Obama asked key Senate leaders to hold off on any new sanctions against Tehran while the Geneva talks continue.