Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, and his team presented a proposal in talks with six world powers on Tuesday which they called a potential breakthrough plan for a decade-old standoff over its contested nuclear programme.
Details of the Iranian proposal – unveiled as a nearly hour-long PowerPoint presentation – were not immediately available.
Michael Mann, the spokesman for the European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who leads the negotiations on behalf of world powers, said the Iranian presentation had been “very useful”, but did not elaborate.
Western officials said the fact that the plan was delivered in English for the first time underlined a new mood in the often-tense nuclear talks.
Abbas Araghchi, a senior Iranian negotiator, praised the “very positive environment” and said the “reaction was good” across the table.
He told reporters that all sides had agreed not to reveal details, but insisted the proposal was “very comprehensive”.
However, he was quoted by IRNA, the Iranian state news agency, as saying that snap inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities were not on the table.
Iran’s two-day meeting with the European Union-chaired P5+1 group — the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia, plus Germany — ends a six-month hiatus over the Islamic republic’s refusal to curb uranium enrichment in exchange for the easing of punishing international sanctions.
The talks in Geneva are seen as a test for the administration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who took office in August pledging transparency on the nuclear programme and engagement with the international community to help lift the sanctions strangling Iran’s economy.
Meanwhile, Israel on Tuesday urged the world to avoid a partial deal with Iran which could see a relaxing of sanctions.
The security cabinet warned the international community against any “partial agreement that would fail to bring about the full dismantling of the Iranian military nuclear programme…[which] could lead to the collapse of the sanctions regime.”
The US and its allies suspect Iran is seeking to develop the capability to make nuclear weapons. Iran denies this, but its refusal to curb sensitive nuclear activity has drawn tough international sanctions.
Since 2006, Iran has rejected the UNSC demands that it halt uranium enrichment and has continued to expand its nuclear fuel programme, leading to increasingly harsh sanctions.
Hopes of a negotiated settlement of the dispute were raised last month when President Barack Obama and Rouhani spoke by telephone, the highest level US-Iranian contact since Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979. Washington and Tehran have not had diplomatic relations since 1980.
In the US, 10 senators – six Democrats and four Republicans – wrote to Obama to say they were open to such a deal to relaxing sanctions on Iran if it slows down its nuclear programme.
The World Bank says sanctions pushed Iran into recession last year, and the Iranian rial lost an estimated 80 percent of its value against the US dollar between March 2012 and March 2013, leading to high inflation. It says bankruptcies are in the rise, Iran’s pharma industry struggles to import supplies and factories are working at half capacity.
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved even stricter new sanctions in July. The Senate Banking Committee agreed to delay them until after the Geneva negotiations only after appeals from the Obama administration.