Kerry holds historic meeting with Mohammad Zarif

John Kerry and and his counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif met after Zarif held wider talks with the United States and other major powers.

Kerry holds historic meeting with Mohammad Zarif

World Bulletin / News Desk

Iran and the United States held their highest-level substantive talks in a generation on Thursday, saying the tone was positive but sounding cautious about resolving the long-running standoff over Iran's nuclear program.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met after Zarif held wider talks with the United States and other major powers to address Western suspicions that Iran may be trying to develop atomic weapons.

Diplomats from the major countries described the atmosphere of the wider talks in positive terms, but they, as well as the U.S. and Iranian foreign ministers, stressed the difficulty of resolving a dispute that has eluded solution for a decade.

"We had a very constructive meeting," Kerry told reporters after the talks at the United Nations, where he and Zarif had sat next to one another and shook hands, according to a senior U.S. official, in a gesture that suggested a desire by both sides to explore how to ease their more than three-decade estrangement.

But Kerry added, "Needless to say, one meeting and a change in tone, which was welcome, doesn't answer those questions yet and there is a lot of work to be done."

The United States wants Iran to address questions about its nuclear program, which Washington and its allies suspect is a cover for developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies that, saying its program is for peaceful, civilian uses.

Zarif, a U.S.-educated diplomat, also sounded a cautionary note and insisted on quick relief from the painful U.S., European Union and U.N. sanctions imposed for Iran's refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

"I am satisfied with this first step. Now we have to see whether we can match our positive words with serious deeds so we can move forward," he told reporters.

"Of course as we move forward, there has to be removal of sanctions and in the end game there has to be a total lifting of all sanctions and both bilateral sanctions, unilateral sanctions as well as multilateral sanctions and U.N. sanctions and we hope to be able to move in that direction within a short span of time."

Kerry said Zarif had put some "possibilities" on the table, but stressed there was more work to be done.

In an interview before Thursday's meeting, Kerry said the United States would not lift sanctions until Iran showed it was not pursuing a nuclear weapons capability.

He told the CBS show "60 Minutes" that one concrete step Iran could take to show it was serious about not seeking nuclear arms would be to open up its Fordow uranium enrichment facility to U.N. inspectors.

"The United States is not going to lift the sanctions until it is clear that a very verifiable, accountable, transparent process is in place, whereby we know exactly what Iran is going be doing with its (nuclear) program," he said.

Iran's new centrist president, Hassan Rouhani, has said he would like to see a deal with world powers in three to six months.

Kerry told CBS it would be "possible to have a deal sooner than that depending on how forthcoming and clear Iran is prepared to be."

The meeting was a very uncommon encounter between top officials of the United States and Iran, which have been estranged since the 1979 overthrow of the shah and the taking of American hostages at theU.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 27 Eylül 2013, 11:48
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