Representatives from Iran and the six global powers have concluded the first day of talks at Almaty amid hopes of incremental progress along a path that would set limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment process and encourage Tehran to show greater openness, in return for a phased lifting of stringent western sanctions.

Ahead of the talks in the former capital of Kazakhstan, the Iranian side said it was ready to make a substantive offer. The number two in the visiting Iranian delegation, Ali Baqeri said Iran was entering the second round with “groundbreaking proposals,” Iran’s English language Press TV reported. Iran is holding talks with Germany and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China.

Mr. Baqeri was complementing the remarks made by the delegation’s chief Saeed Jalili during an address to students at Kazakh University on Wednesday. Mr. Jalili said the global powers should not insist on halting the Iranian uranium enrichment process.

“We think our talks tomorrow can go forward with one word,” he said, adding: “That is the acceptance of the rights of Iran, particularly the right of enrichment.”

The western powers have expressed fears that in case Iran is allowed to carry out enrichment it would enable Iran to develop an atom bomb that uses uranium that is enriched beyond 90 per cent level. Iran insists that its nuclear programme does not have a military orientation.

Western diplomats have been quoted as saying the two sides held detailed “technical” discussions during their 12 hour meeting on March 18. According to the website Al Monitor, the Iranian side signalled during the Istanbul talks that “Tehran was considering an international request to suspend 20% enrichment for six months.”

It was also ready to continue its work on continuing the irreversible process of converting its stockpile of the 20 per cent enriched uranium into fuel rods that would be used for making radio-medicine at the Tehran Research Reactor.

However, the Iranian side objected to the western proposal that Tehran should suspend “other operations at the Fordo facility except 20% enrichment,” Al Monitor reported.

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