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New Round Of Iran Nuclear Talks Opens In Geneva


Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during a gathering of Basij in Tehran on November 20.
World powers and Iran have begun a new round of talks in Geneva on the Islamic republic's nuclear program.

The P5+1 group of world powers -- the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany -- are pursuing efforts to get Iran to suspend or roll back sensitive nuclear activities for six months in exchange for some relief from Western sanctions.

Before the start of the talks, the powers' chief negotiator, EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton, held a separate meeting with the head of the Iranian delegation, Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif.

Zarif told Iranian media the meeting was "good" but did not elaborate.

After a short introductory session chaired jointly by Ashton and Zarif, the negotiating teams went into bilateral meetings.

At talks two weeks ago at the same venue, the two sides failed at the last minute to agree on a deal that would have allowed Iran to continue to produce uranium at 3.5 percent and halt enrichment at 20 percent.

Western powers suspect Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.

Viewpoint: Khamenei's Blistering Attack On U.S. And Israel -- Tactics Or Worldview?

The talks come amid televised warnings on November 21 from Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that the Islamic republic's nuclear rights are non-negotiable.

"We do insist that we will not step back one iota from the rights of the Iranian nation," Khamenei said.

Western powers want Iran to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent, a short technical hop from weapons-grade levels.

Khamenei, in his addresss, voiced support for the negotiations but said the powers must respect the Islamic republic's "red lines."

Khamenei also said Iran "wants to have friendly relations with all nations, even the United States." In response, the militamen chanted, "Death to America."

The group of world powers are also concerned over a research reactor under construction at Arak in western Iran.

The West and Iran's arch-foe, Israel, suspect Iran is seeking atomic weapons, but Tehran insists its nuclear program is entirely peaceful. Israel has repeatedly warned that hasty concessions should not be made to Tehran.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking after talks with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said he hoped the Geneva talks would result in a "mutually acceptable" outcome.

Netanyahu said Israel hopes for a peaceful but "genuine" solution to the dispute.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, BBC, and dpa
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