Iran unveils ‘roadmap’ to end conflict over its nuclear program

GENEVA — Iran’s foreign minister Tuesday unveiled a widely-anticipated plan for ending the conflict over his country’s nuclear program in an hour-long English-language Powerpoint presentation, as two days of talks between Iran and six world powers got underway at a United Nations palace.

Mohammad Javad Zarif’s presentation, which he promised would take a new approach to resolving world anxieties about Iran’s nuclear program, was titled “Closing an unnecessary crisis — Opening new horizons.”

Neither Iranian nor Western officials commented immediately on the contents of the plan. But officials said it was likely that the Iranians would provide some details on their offer later in the day, and the United States and other Western governments would say if it met their demands.

The U.S. and European allies have been eagerly waiting for Iran’s new, relatively moderate government to show whether it is more willing than its predecessor to accept curbs on a fast-growing nuclear program that many governments fear is aimed at acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.

In recent days, Iranian officials have promised a far-reaching three-stage “roadmap” plan that would discuss both the early steps and final stages of what is expected to be a complex negotiation. They promised to provide U.N. inspectors a closer look at what they are doing with their uranium processing facilities, and said Iran would halt production of medium-enriched uranium, a material that can be easily converted to nuclear bomb fuel.

But Iranian officials have also insisted they would continue other parts of the program, including low-level uranium enrichment, and wouldn’t halt activities at their Fordo plant or their Arak heavy water facility.

Abolfazi Amouei, of the Iranian foreign ministry, told reporters it was “very possible” that Iranian and U.S. officials would have a face to face meeting later today. But he said such a bilateral meeting hadn’t yet been set.

Iranian officials have previously refused direct meetings with their American counterparts since the Iranians began meeting with a six power group in 2006. The group also includes Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany.

The two-day session began with a presentation by the European Union’s top foreign policy official, Catherine Ashton. The U.S. diplomats spoke after Zarif and were followed by representatives of the other governments.

The meeting adjourned for the morning shortly before noon. Zarif left the meeting complaining of severe back pains, which he said earlier this week on his Facebook page, had been exacerbated by criticism from hardliners of his government’s overtures to the West.

Expectations for the meeting have been high, with some observers predicting that it could open the way to a resolution of the two-decade-old nuclear issue. But U.S. officials have tried to lower expectations, saying that an immediate breakthrough is not likely.

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