Iran, USA defend themselves by easing sanctions, nuclear restrictions in Vienna talks

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The Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Enrique Mora and the Iranian chief negotiator for nuclear weapons Ali Bagheri Kani and delegations wait for the start of a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria, December 17, 2021. EU delegation in Vienna / EAD / Handout via REUTERS

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  • The relief of sanctions is a sensitive issue
  • Bringing back the frontiers of atomic labor is also a difficult subject
  • Nuclear work has exceeded the limits of the 2015 agreement
  • Iran claims not to be pressed for time

DUBAI, Jan 12 (Reuters) – Iran and the United States are showing little flexibility in indirect nuclear talks on key issues, raising questions about whether a compromise can be found soon to renew a 2015 deal that eradicates fears of a broader one Could dispel war in the Middle East, say diplomats.

After eight rounds of talks, the thorniest points remain the speed and scope of the lifting of sanctions against Tehran, including Iran’s request for a US guarantee of no further punitive action and how and when to restore the containment of Iranian nuclear work.

The nuclear deal restricted Iran’s uranium enrichment activities to make it more difficult for it to develop nuclear weapons – an ambition Tehran denies – in exchange for lifting international sanctions.

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But former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the pact in 2018 because he said he hadn’t done enough to contain Iran’s nuclear activities, ballistic missile program, and regional influence, and re-imposed sanctions badly damaged the Iranian economy.

After a year of waiting, Iran responded to Trump’s pressure by gradually breaking the deal, including rebuilding stocks of enriched uranium, refining to higher fissile purity, and installing advanced centrifuges to speed up production.

After months of stop-start talks that began after Joe Biden replaced Trump in the White House, Western officials are now saying the time is running out to revive the pact. But Iranian officials deny they are pressed for time, arguing that the economy can survive thanks to the oil sales to China. Continue reading

“WE NEED GUARANTEES”

A former Iranian official said Iranian rulers are “certain that their no-compromise, maximalist approach will bring results”.

France said Tuesday that despite some progress, Iran and the world powers were still a long way from reviving the deal at the end of December. Continue reading

The US on Wednesday named “modest progress” in the past few weeks, but not enough.

“Modest progress is not enough if we want to revive the 2015 deal,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

Iran insists on the immediate lifting of all Trump-era sanctions in a verifiable process. Washington has announced that it will be removing curbs that are incompatible with the 2015 pact if Iran resumes compliance, which means that others such as those imposed as part of terrorism or human rights measures will be in place would stay.

“The Americans should give assurances that no new sanctions under any label will be imposed on Iran in the future. We need guarantees that America will not abandon the agreement,” said a senior Iranian official.

Iran’s Nournews, a media company affiliated with the Supreme National Security Council, reported Wednesday that Iran’s main terms in the talks are “pledges and reviews”.

US officials were not immediately available to comment on the issue of guarantees. However, US officials said Biden could not promise that the US government would not revoke the deal because the nuclear deal is a non-binding political agreement rather than a legally binding contract.

An Iranian official was asked to comment on this US constitutional reality: “It is their internal problem”. When asked if the sanctions lifting should be confirmed – by which time Iran would have to revive the restrictions on its nuclear program – the senior Iranian official said Iran and Washington are different on the timing.

“Iran takes a few weeks to review the lifting of sanctions (before reversing its nuclear measures). But the other party says a few days would be enough to get oil on a ship, export it and be To transfer money through the banking system, “the official said.

THREATS

The background to the talks was threats from Israel, which are widely believed to have the only nuclear weapons in the Middle East, but see Iran as an existential threat to attack Iranian nuclear facilities if diplomacy considers it futile to destroy Tehran’s nuclear capabilities and potential contain.

Iran says it would hit back hard if attacked.

A Western diplomat said “early February is a realistic final date for the Vienna talks” as the longer Iran stays outside the deal, the more nuclear expertise it will gain and the shorter the time it may take to build a bomb if he so wished.

“We are still not sure whether Iran really wants an agreement,” said another Western diplomat.

Iran has ruled out an “artificial” deadline.

“Several times they asked Iran to slow down its nuclear work during the talks, and even Americans sent messages about an interim agreement through other parties,” said a second Iranian official close to the Iranian negotiating team.

“It was rejected by Iran.”

Asked for comment, a State Department spokesman who refused to be identified told Reuters: “Of course we – and the entire international community – want Iran to slow down its nuclear program and have made this very clear.

“In addition, we are not openly negotiating the details, but these reports are a long way off.”

Other points of contention include Iran’s advanced nuclear centrifuges, the machines that clean uranium for use as fuel in nuclear power plants or, when highly purified, for weapons.

“Discussions continue on Iran’s request to store and seal its advanced centrifuges … They wanted these centrifuges to be dismantled and shipped overseas,” the first official said.

A Western diplomat was asked to comment on this question: “We are looking for ways to overcome our differences with Iran over the verification process”.

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Reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Dubai, John Irish in Paris, Arshad Mohammed in Saint Paul, Minnesota and Simon Lewis in Washington Writing from Parisa Hafezi; Adaptation by William Maclean and Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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