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Saturday, 28 September 2013 15:49

Iran's Zarif, US Kerry Meet in New York

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.

US 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 a nuclear standoff between the two sides.

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

"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 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 solely peaceful, civilian uses.

Zarif also sounded a cautionary note and insisted on quick relief from the painful US, European Union and UN sanctions imposed for Iran's refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program, a right enshrined in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) for all signatories.

"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.

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