Iranian workers standing in front of the Bush
Iranian workers standing in front of the Bush AFP photo

Iran says its hotly awaited proposal to break the deadlock with world powers over its nuclear program was well received Tuesday in Geneva.

The P5+1 group that comprises the US, Britain, France, China and Russia, plus Germany, is meeting with Iran for a two day discussion aimed at striking a deal with Tehran. The talks are aimed at curtailing Iran's nuclear program in return for a loosening of the sanctions that have left the country in economic isolation.

Iran says that its uranium enrichment program is only for peaceful means, however, Israel and the West have not been convinced. Years of threats to annihilate Israel, combined with its determination to pursue a secretive nuclear development, have led to a deep mistrust over Iranian ambitions. 

As recently as Monday, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, continued to fuel mistrust of Iran's peaceful undertones, as he appealed to Muslims around the world to unite against Israel.

In the first day of meetings, AFP reported Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif delivered an hour-long power point presentation in English, with senior Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi praising the "very positive environment" at the meeting, saying that the "reaction was good."  

Speaking from Geneva, after Tuesday's opening session, Abbas Araqchi told reporters that all sides had agreed not to reveal details, but insisted the proposal was "very comprehensive," and that Iran's proposals have the capacity to make a breakthrough."  

West: cautious optimism

EU spokesman Michael Mann said, "We have come here with a sense of cautious optimism and a great sense of determination because we believe it's really time now for tangible results." EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton is chairing the meeting.

A senior US administration official said earlier in Geneva that any easing of sanctions would be "targeted, proportional to what Iran puts on the table".

"We are hopeful, but that has to be tested with concrete, verifiable actions," the official said.

Israel warns against a partial deal

Israel has said that anything short of a cessation of uranium enrichment would not safeguard the Middle East and the world from the reality of an Iran with a nuclear weapon. Following a meeting late on Monday, the security cabinet issued a unanimous statement warning the international community against any "partial agreement that would fail to bring about the full dismantling of the Iranian military nuclear program... (which) could lead to the collapse of the sanctions regime."    

Iran however, says it will not accept any demand to suspend uranium enrichment or ship out stockpiles of purified material. Today, Iranian state news agency IRNA also quoted Araqchi saying that snap inspections of the Islamic republic's nuclear facilities were not on the table. "It does not exist in the offer," Araqchi told IRNA.

On Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that easing pressure on Iran over its nuclear program would be an “historic mistake, a moment before the sanctions achieve their objective." He said even though Iran could pledge to reduce uranium enrichment, the regime could "quickly enrich uranium from a low level of 3.5 percent to a high level of 90 percent,” warning that accepting a cosmetic deal by Iran, could bring about "the collapse of the entire regime of sanctions."