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New Iran nuclear talks: What can West hope to accomplish?

A US official downplays any hope of a breakthrough in talks this week on the Iran nuclear program. Western negotiators are hoping for some gesture of good faith from Iran.

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EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (r.) greets Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief negotiator, in Geneva, the site of talks about the Iran nuclear program Monday.

Anja Niedringhaus/AP

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In talks with Iran this week in Geneva, world powers including the United States are looking for two things: a signal and a commitment.

First, the US and its five partners in the talks that started Monday want a sign from Tehran that it is serious about reducing tensions in the short term to allow for meaningful negotiations on its nuclear program.

And second, the six powers – the US and the other four permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany – want a commitment that any long-term negotiations would include Iran’s continuing uranium enrichment.

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So far, the talks have gotten the Iranians to agree only to a second day of talks Tuesday – which is one more day than they originally accepted.

In his remarks at the Monday meeting, Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili focused on last week’s car-bombing assassination in Tehran of a top Iranian nuclear scientist, Majid Shahriari. The Iranian side also wants any eventual negotiations to take up broader issues like international terrorism and regional security.

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