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Puzzling, Shaky Start To New Round Of Iran Talks

The first day of the latest talks between Iran and the so-called P5+1 group about the Persian nation's nuclear ambitions has ended with reports of a "shaky" start and Western diplomats saying they are puzzled by what Iran brought to the table.

From Almaty, Kazakhstan, NPR's Peter Kenyon tells us that "the meeting opened with the P5+1 expecting a response from Iran to the proposal laid on the table in February offering a slight easing of sanctions for a slightly less onerous set of demands on Iran. Instead, Iranian deputy negotiator Ali Bagheri told reporters that lead negotiator Saeed Jalili presented 'specific plans' relating to a sweeping 5-point proposal Iran had laid out in Moscow last June. Bagheri was brief and cryptic, offering reporters no details except that the offer would cover the timing, scope and results of the talks."

Later, Peter says, two Western diplomats (who would only speak to reporters anonymously while the talks were ongoing) said they had been hoping for a detailed response to the proposal put on the table in February, not more discussion of the Iranian position from last summer. "We are somewhat puzzled," one diplomat said.

By the end of the day, Peter was telling our Newscast Desk that the "positive atmosphere of the first Almaty talks in February [had] turned to a grim reckoning of the gap still dividing Iran and the six world powers. ... Iran essentially ignored the international offer on the table."

The Wall Street Journal's conclusion is that the talks got off to a "shaky start."

The BBC says there was "little progress" Friday.

Iran maintains its nuclear program is focused on civilian uses for that energy source. The U.S. and other nations suspect Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. The P5+1 is made of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S) and Germany.

The talks are expected to resume Saturday. As Peter says, the "international side is struggling to find a way forward."

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