BEIRUT — Both sides sought to tamp down expectations Tuesday as representatives of Iran and six world powers met in Vienna for
Much of the opening day in the scheduled three-day initial session was dedicated to working out an agenda and a framework for negotiations, reports indicated. The talks are expected to be difficult and to last several months, observers say.
"It is a big job, and of course we have a long and complicated negotiation ahead," Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told journalists in Vienna, the Iranian media reported.
The negotiations are meant to build on a landmark interim deal hammered out in Geneva in November. In that accord, which went into effect in January and is meant to last for six months, Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for limited relief from international sanctions that have battered its economy. The agreement can be extended to allow time for additional negotiations.
The Iranian delegation, led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, was meeting with diplomats from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. Iranian negotiators held bilateral sessions Tuesday with several participating nations, the Iranian media reported. On Monday, Zarif dined with Catherine Ashton, the
"Our objective is to ensure that Iran's nuclear program will remain exclusively peaceful," Zarif told reporters. "This is a common objective. ... Now we are supposed to plan out how to do that."
Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for energy generation and other peaceful purposes. Many Western officials suspect Iran seeks the capacity to build an atomic bomb. The issue has festered for a decade, heightening tension between Tehran and the international community.
Representatives of the Obama administration have also stressed that the talks are expected to be lengthy and complex, with little likelihood of an immediate breakthrough.
In both Iran and the United States, powerful political factions are leery of the negotiations, centerpiece of the foreign policy of new Iranian President
Iran’s supreme leader,
Khamenei also accused the Obama administration of brandishing the nuclear issue to undermine and threaten the Islamic Republic. Still, the supreme leader, who has the final say on matters of state in Iran's theocratic system of governance, said he supported the talks.
In Washington, many in