By GEORGE JAHN and JOHN HEILPRIN
GENEVA (AP) – Nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers ended on an upbeat note Wednesday, with top Western and Iranian negotiators announcing a follow-up round early next month while speaking of significant progress in efforts to reduce fears that Tehran may be seeking atomic arms.
Despite abandoning the pessimistic tone of previous meetings, however, negotiators refused to reveal details on what – if any – concessions Iran offered. That gives potential traction to skeptics who can claim the conference was aimed more at building trust and silencing critics at home than in resolving the thorny issues that have blocked progress over a decade of talks.
Iran denies suspicions that it wants nuclear arms and has resisted incentives and tough penalties aimed at curbing its atomic activities. But since reformist Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took office in August, senior officials from Rouhani on down have pledged to meet international concerns in exchange for an easing of crippling economic sanctions.
The post-meeting optimism expressed by senior Western and Iranian officials suggested that Tehran had put forward serious proposals at the two-day talks. Catherine Ashton, the EU’s top diplomat, spoke of “a very intensive and, I think, a very important meeting,” while Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said he hoped for “the beginning of a new phase” between his country and some of its most vehement critics.