World Bulletin/News Desk
The new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program continue in north-western province of Istanbul between Iran and five permanent members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Germany.
The P5+1 delegation is led by Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, while the Iranian delegation is led by Said Jalili, Secretary General of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and Nuclear Negotiator.
The delegations of Iran, the United States, France, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany had bilateral meetings between respective delegations in the afternoon on Friday. Ashton and Jalili also had a bilateral meeting.
There was some relief that Iran was ready to continue, as diplomats expressed concern that talks could have collapsed on the first day as both sides dug in around old positions.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is the lead negotiator for the big powers -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.
The first meeting between Iran and P5+1 took place in Geneva, Switzerland in October 2009.
"She seems to have had some success in trying narrow the gaps and the Iranians seem to be responding positively to her," a Western diplomat said.
Iran's nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili also met separately with heads of the Russian and Chinese delegations, but it was uncertain whether he would agree to meet Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Bill Burns, the head of the U.S. team.
"We are fully prepared to have a conversation with Iran, but whether it will happen remains to be seen," U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in Washington.
Burns and Jalili met on the sidelines of an earlier round of talks in Geneva in 2009, but such contacts have been rarely confirmed by the Iranian side and usually have taken place behind the scenes since the fall of the U.S.-backed shah in Iran in 1979.
Early on during Friday's sessions, an Iranian delegate said Iran refused to discuss any suspension of its uranium enrichment activities during the Istanbul talks.
Possible revised offer
Uranium enriched to a low degree yields fuel for electricity or, if refined to a very high level, the fissile core of a nuclear bomb.
Iran's nuclear standoff with the West has escalated in the past year, with the United Nations imposing new sanctions and Western states rejecting a revised proposal for Iran to swap some of its fuel abroad as too little, too late.
Ashton outlined a possible revised offer for a nuclear fuel swap that would entail Iran handing over a large chunk of its stockpile of low enriched uranium (LEU). But no offer was made as Iran's preconditions included a suspension of economic sanctions, a Western diplomat said.
The big powers are looking for some gesture from Iran that would demonstrate serious intent to engage and form the basis for a next round of talks.
They are prepared to revise 2009 proposals for a swap, whereby Iran would exchange some of its LEU for highly processed fuel to keep a Tehran reactor that makes medical isotopes running. The idea tentatively was agreed in October 2009 only for Iran to back out some weeks later.
Since then, Iran's known LEU stockpile has doubled and it has begun enriching uranium up to 20 percent fissile purity for conversion into reactor fuel.
Consequently, the Western powers would want Iran to exchange a far larger amount than the 1,200 kg (2,645 lb) of LEU agreed in 2009.
Foreign intelligence agencies appeared to have targeted Iran's nuclear work in various ways, such as sabotage of equipment it seeks abroad, cyber attacks as well as the assassination of nuclear experts.