Iran on Monday began a series of international talks about its nuclear ambitions by saying it supports a "new" path for resolving tensions with international critics, according to Reuters.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi on Monday at the International Atomic Energy Agency's headquarters met with its director general, Yukiya Amano -- marking the first such high-level meeting of leaders from the two sides since the June election of moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Araqchi told reporters in Vienna that he had a "very useful and constructive" talk with the top U.N. nuclear watchdog. Araqchi said he offered a plan for resolving outstanding issues regarding his nation's nuclear program, which Iranian and IAEA technical experts were expected to discuss later on Monday. The pair of meetings on Monday will be followed by talks later this week and next week between Iran and six major world powers.
"We think this is the time to take a new approach to resolving [questions] between Iran and the IAEA and look to the future for further cooperation," Araqchi said on Monday after meeting with Amano, according to Reuters.
Western nations fear Iran's nuclear program is oriented toward the development of weapons, though the Middle Eastern nation insists it atomic efforts are peaceful in nature.
Observers were optimistic about Monday's talks, and diplomats predicted Iran could offer concessions such as allowing a U.N. inspection of its Parchin military base, according to Reuters.
On Wednesday and Thursday, a seven-member team of Iranian nuclear experts is slated to meet in Vienna with counterparts from the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany. Those talks are seen as preparation for a high-profile summit in Geneva on Nov. 7-8 between senior diplomats from Iran and the six nations -- the so-called "P-5+1," all of which are permanent U.N. Security Council members, except Germany. The seven nations' last meeting was Oct. 15-16 in Vienna.
In the United States, some lawmakers want to expand economic sanctions against Iran, and are pushing for passage of legislation that would do so that is now before the Senate Banking Committee. President Obama's administration, hopeful the ongoing diplomatic talks will prove successful, last week pled with Senate aides to delay any move to expand sanctions.
"We think that this is a time for a pause, to see if these negotiations can gain traction," U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman said on Friday in a televised interview with Voice of America, according to the Guardian. She is the lead American negotiator in those senior-level talks with Iran.
Meanwhile, an Iranian lawmaker on Saturday dismissed reports from last week that his country ceased its most-sensitive uranium enrichment work, Reuters reported separately on Sunday. Such a halting of uranium enrichment to 20 percent would ensure Iran is not working to develop a nuclear bomb.
"Enrichment to 20 percent is continuing," Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted Alaeddin Boroujerdi, a senior member of parliament, as saying on Saturday.