Talks between Iran and six world powers in Istanbul on Tehran's nuclear program, the first in 15 months, began Saturday in a "positive atmosphere," a European Union spokesman said.
"There is a positive atmosphere. ... There is a desire for substantive progress," Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, told reporters.
"There is no disagreement yet," said Mann, calling the atmosphere "good and friendly."
But with mutual mistrust and tough talk on both sides major progress looks unlikely.
According to officials close to the negotiations between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany (the P5+1), the most that can be hoped for is an agreement to hold more detailed discussions in a few weeks.
"It depends on what happens," said Mann, adding that if there is a certain extent of progress at the Istanbul talks, Western powers would opt to a second round.
But Mann said: "We have to do the first round of the talks first."
The two sides could have a new round of negotiations in May, said a source close to the talks.
Iran insists that this new round should take place in Baghdad.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, also in Istanbul, said "much depends on what Iran is putting on the table today."
"The time for tactical games is long over," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement issued in Berlin, saying the talks would be "anything but easy."
Representing Washington was Wendy Sherman, undersecretary for political affairs. Ma Zhaoxu, assistant foreign minister, led the Chinese delegation, while Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov headed Moscow's team.
Sources in the Iranian delegation, led by Saeed Jalili, said as he went into the talks that they would be "worthy of the Iranian people." There would be a morning and an afternoon session as well as talks over lunch, his delegation said.
The main concern of the international community, particularly for Iran's arch foe Israel, is Tehran's growing capacity to enrich uranium, which can be used in power generation and other peaceful uses but, when purified further, for a nuclear weapon.
Of particular worry is the formerly secret Fordo site in a mountain bunker near the holy city of Qom, currently enriching to 20-percent purity but which experts say could be reconfigured to produce 90-percent weapons grade material.
Fordo's expansion, plus a major U.N. atomic agency report in November on alleged "weaponization" efforts, have led to tighter EU and U.S. sanctions on Iran's oil sector due to bite this summer and talk of Israeli military strikes.
Following earlier false starts, Western governments -- and in particular U.S. President Barack Obama as he seeks re-election this November -- are wary of being accused of being duped by empty Iranian promises that just buy Tehran more time.
Obama, who has warned against "loose talk" of war, said last month that "both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say."
"I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don't bluff."
Highlighting the deep mistrust and the major differences, a source close to the Iranian delegation said Friday that recent Western comments did not "give us much hope" and were "disappointing and discouraging."
The West has stressed the need for Iranian "seriousness", with Group of Eight (G8) foreign ministers on Thursday highlighting Tehran's "persistent failure to comply with its obligations."
"If Iran turns up for the meeting in the same spirit of 'Istanbul I', we're not going to get very far," one P5+1 source told AFP, referring to the last stab at talks in this Turkish city in January 2011.
"We haven't come here to talk about lifting sanctions."
U.S. media reports meanwhile have suggested that the P5+1 want Iran to halt enrichment of uranium to purities of 20 percent, shutter Fordo and send Tehran's stockpiles of enriched uranium abroad.
Iran meanwhile has promised to present "new initiatives", but diplomats said it was unclear what these were or whether they would be enough to convince the P5+1 that further negotiations, possibly in Baghdad in May, would be worth it.
The world powers also want Iran to grant the International Atomic Energy Agency greater access to ease fears that it might have covert facilities, and to answer accusations made in the IAEA's November report.
But comments from Iran, most notably from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, underline that Tehran will not consent to anything that infringes on its right to peaceful nuclear activities without promises that sanctions will be lifted.
"Iran will ultimately insist upon a guarantee ... that it has the right to enrich uranium," Mark Hibbs, analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told AFP ahead of the talks.
"Iran's minimum expectation from the P5+1 is that they seek Iran's trust by cancelling all illegal resolutions and sanctions as the first step," hardline Iranian daily Kayhan said Saturday.
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