Iran, US in nuclear talks in Geneva

The US last week penalised a number of Iranian and foreign companies for violating sanctions against Tehran.

Deputy US Secretary of State William Burns. Picture: AFP.

GENEVA - Iran and the United States began bilateral nuclear talks in Geneva on Thursday, the second time the two sides have met since Iran and six world powers failed to meet a 20 July deadline to resolve differences in the long-standing dispute.

State news agency IRNA and a US official confirmed the talks were underway.

Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia have set a new deadline of 24 November to negotiate a comprehensive agreement under which Tehran would scale back its nuclear activities in exchange for gradually ending the sanctions that have crippled its oil-dependent economy.

"If there is good will and a constructive approach, we can reach a desired result before 24 November," IRNA quoted Iran's deputy foreign minister Majid Takht-Ravanchi as saying late on Wednesday.

The United States last week penalised a number of Iranian and other foreign companies, banks and airlines for violating sanctions against Tehran, saying it was sending a signal that there should be no evasion of sanctions while talks continue.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday the sanctions were against the spirit of negotiations, but added he was not pessimistic about the viability of the talks.

The next round of talks between Iran and the six world powers will be held in New York on 18 September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting, IRNA said.

The agency said Iran also plans to hold talks with France, Britain and Germany on 11 September in Vienna. A Western diplomatic source said the IRNA report appeared to be correct, but did not give details.

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman were in the US delegation at Thursday's talks, which will last for two days, the State Department said in a statement.

Abbas Araghchi, one of Iran's chief negotiators, is also at the discussions, which IRNA said would last until Saturday.

Western countries suspect Iran's programme is aimed at seeking the capability to build a nuclear bomb. Tehran says its programme is peaceful.