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Iran Nuclear Talks Start In Istanbul


Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (right) attends a meeting in February in Tehran with Iranian nuclear scientists and managers as portraits of recently slain Iranian scientists are displayed.
EU officials say that talks between Iran and six world powers in Istanbul on Tehran's nuclear program have begun in a "positive atmosphere."

The talks come against a backdrop of mounting international sanctions against Iran and speculation that Israel could launch military strikes on Iranian nuclear sites to prevent Tehran from obtaining atomic arms, which a number of governments suspect is their aim.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said after the meeting that all sides agreed to hold a new round of talks in Baghdad on May 23. Ashton, speaking at a news conference, called the meeting useful and constructive.

The talks, the first in 15 months, are seen as a chance for Iran and the "P5+1" negotiating group to seek a way out of years of deadlock over suspicions that Iran is using its nuclear power program for developing nuclear weapons or a weapons capability.

The "P5+1" comprises the five permanent members of the UN Security Council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States -- plus Germany.

The United States and European Union have already imposed sanctions on Iran, and the EU is set to place further sanctions on Iranian oil imports this summer over Tehran's failure to cooperate with UN demand for more information on the program.

The UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), last year accused Iran of carrying out work "specific to making weapons" and has been frustrated in its efforts to get Tehran to demonstrate that such work is not ongoing.

Iran insists its nuclear program is intended for civilian power use.

"There is a desire for substantive progress," Ashton spokesman Michael Mann had said earlier. "There was a good, friendly atmosphere, and it went on for three hours, which nobody expected," Mann said. He said "the idea was to establish a good working relationship and that was achieved, so we will see what actually comes out of that now in the talks."

He described the meeting as "totally different" from a failed effort in January 2011.

Western officials demanded ahead of the talks that Iran negotiate in good faith. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement issued in Berlin that "the time for tactical games is long over." He also predicted the talks would be "anything but easy."

Analysts suggested ahead of the meeting that there was little to hope for a breakthrough in Istanbul.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP