JERUSALEM, Israel -- While the Obama administration welcomed the end of the government shutdown Wednesday and the default on the country's massive debt ceiling, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry took part in renewed nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva.
There were lots of smiling faces among delegates at the two-day meeting between the P5+1 (U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China and Germany) and Iran, making it appear more like a social gathering at times than high-level discussions.
White House spokesman Jay Carney described the talks as "very useful."
"The Iranian proposal was a new proposal with a level of seriousness and substance that we had not seen before," Carney told reporters, cautioning that "no one should expect a breakthrough overnight."
"These are complicated issues," he said. "They are technical issues and as the president has said, the history of mistrust is very deep."
E.U. High Representative Baroness Catherine Ashton called the discussions "very important," marking a change from last June when she suspended talks with Iran, citing a lack of "common ground."
But that was before Hassan Rouhani replaced former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani has been hailed as the new, moderate face of Iran by many world leaders.
In a statement on behalf of the P5+1, Ashton said Iran "presented an outline of a plan as a proposed basis for negotiation."
Some media reports suggest Iran proposed a six-month confidence-building period before implementing agreed-upon changes to its nuclear program. Lifting sanctions that have crippled its oil-based economy is at the top of Iran's wish list, a move Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns would be a big mistake.
Those sanctions have brought Iran back to negotiations, Netanyahu says. And a diplomatic resolution must include halting uranium enrichment and dismantling nuclear weapons facilities. Netanyahu also warned that Israel had not ruled out a pre-emptive military strike.
"There are times when thinking about [the] international response to such a move is not worth the price that we would pay in blood for being on the receiving end of such a strategic attack, which we then have to respond to later and perhaps then it may be too late," he said earlier this week.
Among the dissenting voices was former President George W. Bush, who told participants at the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations in Manhattan Tuesday he doesn't trust the Iranian regime.
"I will not believe in Iran's peaceful intentions until they can irrevocably prove that it's true," JTA quoted the president. "The United States' foreign policy must be clear eyed and understand that until the form of government changes in Iran, it is unlikely that their intentions toward Israel will change."
In August, the Obama administration promised Rouhani he would find a "willing partner" in the United States. That didn't deter the newly elected president from describing Israel as "a wound on the body of the Islamic world…[that] should be removed."