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Iran: Nuclear talks now on fast track

Tehran’s foreign minister says Western powers ‘ambitious’ in pursuing resolution to standoff, talks could be over within a year

US Secretary of State John Kerry (left), and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (right) attend a meeting of the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany during the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, Thursday, September 26, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Jason DeCrow)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (left), and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (right) attend a meeting of the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany during the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, Thursday, September 26, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Jason DeCrow)

NEW YORK (AP) — Iran’s foreign minister says his country and key world powers have agreed to try to fast-track negotiations over Iran’s disputed nuclear program to within a year.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke at the Asia Society shortly after meeting foreign ministers from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

“We agreed to jump-start the process so that we could move forward with a view to agreeing first on the parameters of the end game … and move toward finalizing it hopefully within a year’s time.” Zarif said.

He added: “I thought I was too ambitious, bordering naivete. But I saw that some of my colleagues were even more ambitious and wanted to do it faster.”

The meeting between Zarif and representatives of Security council permanent members and Germany is aimed at paving the way for the first round of substantive negotiations on the nuclear issue since April, slated for October in Geneva. It also marked the highest-level direct contact between the United States and Iran in six years as Secretary of State John Kerry met face-to-face with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif Thursday.

Encouraged by signs that new Iranian President Hasan Rouhani will adopt a more moderate stance than his hard-line predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but skeptical that the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will allow a change in course, President Barack Obama directed Kerry to lead a new outreach to explore possibilities for resolving the long-standing dispute. However, Obama and other US officials have said Iran must prove its commitment with actions, not just words.

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