European foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, left, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif, right, wait for the start of closed-door nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
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Six world powers and iran launched a decisive phase of diplomacy on Wednesday to draft a lasting accord that would curb Tehran's contested nuclear activity in exchange for a phased end to sanctions that have hobbled the iranian economy.Washington's decades-long estrangement from iran could ease, improving international stability, if a deal were done but U.S. and other Western officials warned against unwarranted optimism given persisting, critical differences between the sides.Broadly, the six powers want to ensure the iranian programme is curtailed enough so that it would take iran a long time to assemble nuclear bomb components if it chose to do so, and would be detected with intrusive inspections before it was too late.Central to this issue will be the number of centrifuge machines, which potentially can enrich uranium to bomb-fuel quality, that iran would be permitted to operate.iran entered talks with the big powers after moderate President Hassan Rouhani was elected last June.
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