Talks aimed at reaching a long-term agreement on Iran's nuclear program kicked off Tuesday, but even in the nascent stages, both U.S. and Iranian officials are working to strangle expectations.
"President Obama has said, and I quite agree, it's probably as likely that we won't get an agreement as it is that we will," a senior administration official said, but added the talks are the " best chance" for a diplomatic resolution to the long-standing problem.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will attend the talks for Iran. Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, will represent the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Russia, Germany, and China.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement that he is "not optimistic about the talks, and they will reach nowhere."
Scheduled to last through Thursday, the sessions aren't expected to produce any major diplomatic breakthroughs; a senior administration official noted that the focus would be on deciding "what the format will be, what the timing will be, how much will be done at the expert level, vice the political director or foreign minister level."
Ashton previously suggested that talks to find a long-term agreement could last longer than the six-month timeframe that was decided under the interim agreement. And senior administration officials on Monday sidestepped questions about what would happen if there wasn't a deal after 12 months.