Iran and six key nations on Wednesday began work on a possible compromise text for resolving a long-running nuclear standoff, Reuters reports.
The start to the discussions in Vienna marked a turning point in a months-long push to clear up international fears that numerous Iranian atomic activities are directed toward development of a nuclear-arms capacity. Insiders have signaled possible progress over specific points of dispute -- including an Iranian heavy-water reactor capable of generating bomb-usable plutonium -- but negotiators must still determine how to assemble a complete agreement.
Success is far from certain, a high-level U.S. insider told reporters. Tehran denies harboring plans to potentially build an atomic arsenal, but has voiced openness to adopting long-term nuclear restrictions in exchange for sanctions relief from China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
"This is very, very difficult," the U.S. official said, adding that "no one can predict what the overall comprehensive plan of action will look like from dissecting any one piece of it in isolation."
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif offered similar remarks after a Tuesday meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who has represented the six other negotiating powers.
"This is going to be a difficult and time consuming exercise," the Xinhua News Agency quoted Zarif as saying.
An Ashton spokesman said envoys completed a "useful initial discussion" early on Wednesday, and would convene further planning sessions in coming hours, Reuters reported.
"We are now hoping to move to a new phase of negotiations in which we will start pulling together what the outline of an agreement could be. All sides are highly committed," the spokesman said.
The sides are pushing to complete a final agreement by July 20, when an interim accord negotiated in November is slated to lapse.