Iran to react to nuclear offer

World powers will urge Iran to accept an offer to ease economic sanctions if it stops sensitive nuclear work.

Iranian nuclear plant. Picture: AFP

ALMATAY, KAZAKHSTAN - World powers will urge Iran on Friday to accept their offer to ease some economic sanctions if Tehran stops its most sensitive nuclear work, in talks aimed at calming tensions that threaten to boil over into war.

The six powers - the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - met Iranian negotiators in the Kazakh city of Almaty on Friday at the start of the second round of talks this year, aiming to settle a decade-old dispute over Tehran's nuclear work.

With an Iranian presidential election in June complicating decision-making in Tehran, there is little chance of a breakthrough, but Israel has indicted its patience with diplomacy is running out.

Israel has threatened to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities if Tehran does not curb the activities the world powers suspect are aimed at making a nuclear bomb.

Without a conclusive deal in sight, Western diplomats are hoping for at least a serious discussion of specific points of their proposal, made at the last talks in February.

"We hope that Iran comes prepared, makes a substantive and concrete response that really enters into serious ... negotiations to meet the international community's concerns," a senior U.S. administration official said on Wednesday.

Iran has resisted international pressure, arguing its uranium enrichment is for peaceful purposes only and therefore should be allowed to continue, under international law.

Its negotiators arrived in Almaty with their own proposals, the Iranian media reported without giving any detail, and chief negotiator Saeed Jalili struck a defiant tone.

"We think our talks tomorrow can go forward with one word. That is the acceptance of the rights of Iran, particularly the right to enrichment," Jalili said in a speech at an Almaty university on Thursday.

World powers say Tehran has relinquished that right by hiding its nuclear work from United Nations inspectors in the past and refusing to grant them full access.

Talks started on Friday and were expected to last through Saturday.