US, Iran hold bilateral nuclear talks

The United States and Iran held a bilateral meeting on Tuesday amid negotiations between Tehran and six world powers over Iran’s nuclear program, according to a senior State Department official.

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The bilateral meeting between State’s undersecretary for political affairs, Wendy Sherman, and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi in Geneva lasted approximately one hour, according to the official.

The meeting took place on the first of two days of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany.

“The discussion was useful, and we look forward to continuing our discussions in tomorrow's meetings with the full P5+1 and Iran,” the official said.

The talks, which began in Geneva on Tuesday, were the first nuclear negotiations between the six world powers and Iran since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected in June, prompting fresh hopes a compromise can be reached.

Tuesday’s bilateral meeting comes after President Obama spoke by phone with Rouhani last month and a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

“We’ve passed the bilateral Rubicon,” a senior administration official told reporters on Monday. Zarif also met on Tuesday with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, according to a spokesman for Ashton.

Kicking off the first of two closed sessions on Tuesday, Tehran outlined a new proposal that it said could lead to a “breakthrough” in the negotiations.

Iran is hoping that it can get painful sanctions from the United States and Europe lifted, which the Obama administration has said it’s willing to consider if Iran makes concessions with its nuclear program.

Iran’s semi-official FARS News Agency, which first reported the U.S-Iranian meeting on Tuesday, said the atmosphere in the meetings was “positive and constructive.” The talks are scheduled to continue on Wednesday.

Iranian state television said that Iran had offered to discuss uranium enrichment levels and opening its facilities for wider inspection, but it wants the West to recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium, according to the Associated Press.

The United States and other Western countries are concerned Iran is seeking to produce nuclear weapons, while Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

--This report was updated at 3:06 p.m.