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As Talks Begin, Iran And World Powers Stake Out Positions

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As talks opened in Baghdad today, "diplomats from six world powers offered Iran new proposals Wednesday to ease international concerns about its nuclear program, but appeared to reject Tehran's appeals to ease economic sanctions to help move along talks," The Associated Press reports.

NPR's Peter Kenyon tells our Newscast Desk that "negotiators hope to set out a step by step process that the U.S. hopes will eventually lead to an end to Iran's enrichment program and Iran hopes will ease punitive sanctions that are choking its economy. But hardliners on both sides are casting doubt on the prospects for a diplomatic solution to the standoff."

According to the AP, "the proposal by the U.S. and its negotiation partners focused on Iran's highest-level uranium enrichment — at 20 percent — which many world leaders fear could be quickly turned into warhead-grade material." Details about the offer were not revealed, AP says.

The BBC reports that "as the talks began, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the world powers were putting a new offer to Tehran. The spokesman, Michael Mann, would not confirm whether this offer included any relief on sanctions."

While Iran says its efforts are focused only on peaceful uses for nuclear energy, the U.S. and its allies in the negotiations want to head off any effort by that nation to develop atomic weapons. The world powers at the table with Iran are China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S.

Tuesday, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency told reporters that Iran has agreed to give the IAEA access to its key nuclear-related facilities.

Related reports on today's Morning Edition:

-- "Iran In Tough Spot As Sanctions Take Economic Toll."

-- "Russia Opposes Iran Acquiring Nuclear Weapons."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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