U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with fellow P5+1 foreign ministers, as well as Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (center), listening as EU High Representative Catherine Ashton speaks at U.N. Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, after the group concluded negotiations about Iran's nuclear capabilities on November 24, 2013. (Flickr/State Department)
WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- U.S. and Iranian officials met Wednesday and Thursday for bilateral talks in New York regarding Iran's nuclear program.
A senior U.S. Administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity per State Department policy, described the U.S. delegation's sentiment in the lead-up to the latest round of nuclear negotiations with Iran.
"Coming into New York, I think many of us were not very optimistic. But clearly, over meetings over the last two days both with Iran and with my P5+1 and EU colleagues, it is clear that everyone has come here to go to work."
The latest round of Iranian nuclear negotiations is scheduled to begin Friday with a plenary session at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
The talks, which will be chaired by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, seek to reach a final Iranian nuclear agreement.
U.S. officials have pressed Iran for guarantees that its nuclear program will remain peaceful and not be used as a weapon. In July, as talks stalled, Kerry sought concrete assurances from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, "not just to declare that they will not obtain a nuclear weapon, but to demonstrate in the actions they take beyond any reasonable doubt that any Iranian nuclear program, now and going forward, is exclusively for peaceful purposes."
Zarif expressed Iran's readiness in an interview Thursday with the National Interest to provide those assurances.
"Given Iran's public statements," the Administration official said Thursday evening, "these practical steps should be doable."
"There is a unique opportunity over this next week and a half when heads of state, foreign ministers, and many other world leaders are gathered in New York. There is an opportunity to make progress in these talks and to see whether the outlines, and more importantly, the details of a potential agreement begin to emerge in a fuller way than we've seen before."
Delegates from Iran and the P5+1 countries -- the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) plus Germany -- have until November to reach a final agreement.