WASHINGTON - Six world powers floated a modestly improved proposal to Iranian negotiators on Tuesday, as talks on Tehran's disputed nuclear program resumed after an eight-month hiatus and with few expectations of a breakthrough.
Opening a two-day session in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the so-called Five Plus One group offered to slightly ease economic sanctions if Tehran will halt production of near-weapons grade uranium fuel. The powers - China, Russia, France, Britain, Germany and the United States - fear Iran may be seeking the ability to make bombs, an intent it denies.
The world powers have proposed allowing Iran to trade in gold and some other precious metals, a change that would ease the sanctions that have largely severed Iran from the world banking system.
In exchange, Iran would have to stop producing so-called medium-enriched uranium at its underground plant at Fordo.
Iran's state-controlled Press TV said in an English-language broadcast that the offer would provide only "minor relief" and was "not a balanced proposal" from Iran's point of view.
But in other accounts, in Farsi, the government-controlled media praised the proposal, suggesting Iran might be taking it seriously, said Ray Takeyh, an Iran expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry implied this week that the United States could yet turn to military action to prevent Tehran from acquiring a bomb. Israel has made similar threats.