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Talks on Iran's Nuclear Program 'Substantive'

Six world powers and Iran have ended two days of talks on Tehran's nuclear program with both sides describing the negotiations in hopeful terms in a rare joint statement.

The tone by both sides in Geneva was a dramatic shift from previous talks between Iran and the so-called P5+1 group that have failed to resolve differences over Iran's nuclear program.

A senior U.S. official described the latest discussions as "intense, detailed, straightforward and candid." And the White House said the talks showed "a level of seriousness and substance" that the United States had never seen before.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said they were a step towards "closing an unnecessary crisis."

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said the talks were "substantive and forward looking" and that a new round of negotiations is scheduled for November 7-8 in Geneva.

Ashton, who is leading talks with Iran on behalf of the P5+1, did not reveal details on the substance of the meetings that ended Wednesday.

She read a joint statement endorsed by Iran and the six-country group and said world powers are "carefully" examining Iran's proposal which aims to resolve a decade-old nuclear dispute with the West.

The discussions brought together Iranian officials and representatives from Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany.

Key P5+1 demands include the acceptance by Iran of a comprehensive verification regime - with unannounced checks by the International Atomic Energy Agency - and a reduction in Iran's level of uranium enrichment.

Earlier Wednesday, Iran's state-run news agency IRNA quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi as saying neither inspections nor uranium reduction were within the first part of an Iranian proposal in the talks, "but form part of our last steps."

Iran's Zarif said Tehran's plan contained three phases that could settle the long-running nuclear standoff "within a year," with the first achievable steps "within a month or two, or even less."

Iran's proposal aims to assure the international community its nuclear program is peaceful. In exchange, Iran is seeking relief from international sanctions imposed to try to force it to halt uranium enrichment activities.

The Geneva talks are the first since relative moderate Hassan Rouhani was elected Iran's president in June. He promised to lead a diplomatic effort to get economic sanctions against Iran eased, but P5+1 officials have said Iran must prove its sincerity through concrete steps before that will happen.

In previous negotiations, world powers called for Iran to give up its existing stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent purity and send it abroad. Uranium of that purity is a short technical step away from being converted to weapons-grade material.

But Russia expressed caution on Wednesday. Sergey Ryabkov, Russia's deputy foreign minister and a key negotiator on Iran, was quoted as saying the results in Geneva "do not guarantee further progress."


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