Geneva Talks Help To Defuse Tensions With Iran

Iran has agreed to open its covertly built uranium enrichment plant to international inspectors. The agreement came in Switzerland in talks it held with six world powers. One EU official called the meeting productive but cautioned there is a long process ahead. The talks are to continue later in the month. President Obama has challenged the Iranians to follow up on their promises.

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You can't say anybody was too optimistic about this week's nuclear talks with Iran. The U.S. and Iran have not had diplomatic relations for 30 years and have massive differences now. Yet the first day of talks with the U.S., Iran and five other nations produced some apparent breakthroughs. Among other things, the Islamic Republic agreed to quickly open its newly disclosed nuclear enrichment site to international inspectors.

NPR's Eric Westervelt has details from Geneva.

ERIC WESTERVELT: Thursday's talks, at an 18th century villa near Lake Geneva, seemed to go a long way towards starting to diffuse tensions that had once again been building over Iran's nuclear ambitions. Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, called the talks good and confirmed Iran would meet with the world powers again by month's end. Also at the table Thursday was the European Union's top foreign policy official, Javier Solana. He called the talks productive, but voiced caution about the long process ahead.

Mr. JAVIER SOLANA (Foreign Policy Official, European Union): Let's see what happens now. We are in the month of October. It's just two meetings, one preparatory, one full with members. The sixth - let's see how feasible.

WESTERVELT: Solana also said Iran agreed to open its second enrichment site at Qom to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency, a key demand of the U.S. and its European allies. The IAEA later said its chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, had been invited to Iran. He may leave for Tehran as early as this weekend.

In a breakthrough that could set an important precedent, Iran also agreed to send some of its enriched uranium for use in a small, medical-research reactor to Russia for further processing. It's the first time Iran has agreed to let an outside country get involved in its enrichment program. In a highly symbolic development, U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns and Iran's Jalili spoke one-on-one for 45 minutes during a lunch break.

It was the highest-level, direct U.S. meeting with Iran since Washington severed relations with Tehran in 1980. President Barack Obama called the talks a productive beginning, but cautioned that the U.S. is prepared to turn up the pressure if Tehran doesn't follow through.

President BARACK OBAMA: We've entered a phase of intensive international negotiations, and talk is no substitute for action. Pledges of cooperation must be fulfilled.

WESTERVELT: Eric Westervelt, NPR News, Geneva.

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