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Iran nuclear talks resume amid pressure for results

AP – Diplomats from Iran and world powers reconvened in Vienna on Tuesday to seek a deal reviving Tehran’s 2015 nuclear accord, with pressure mounting for results soon.

Negotiators from Iran and the remaining parties to the agreement – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – got back to work after a break of a little over a week to return to their capitals for consultations.

The United States (US) has participated indirectly in the talks because it withdrew from the accord in 2018 under then president Donald Trump. President Joe Biden has signalled that he wants to rejoin the deal.

The accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, granted Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme. Under Trump, the US re-imposed heavy sanctions on Iran. Tehran has responded by increasing the purity and amounts of uranium it enriches and stockpiles, in breach of the accord.

Officials said that the talks are reaching their final stage, though it’s unclear how long that might take.

A general view of Palais Coburg, where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran are held in Vienna, Austria. PHOTO: AP

The negotiations have dragged on for months, punctuated by a long gap last year caused by the arrival of a hard-line new government in Iran. The current eighth round started just after December 25.

The three Western European participants have been warning for a while that time is running out for a successful conclusion of the talks.

They have argued that the accord will soon become an “empty shell” in light of Iran stepping up its nuclear programme. Iran insists that its programme is peaceful.

On Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed several sanctions waivers related to Iran’s civilian nuclear activities.

The move reverses the Trump administration’s decision to rescind them. Iran’s foreign minister on Saturday welcomed the sanctions relief but called it insufficient.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday that the talks are “currently at a crucial juncture” and that all involved “should enhance the sense of urgency”.

“As the culprit in the Iranian nuclear crisis, the US should thoroughly correct its wrong policy of maximum pressure on Iran and lift all illegal sanctions on Iran and third parties,” Zhao said.

“On this basis, the Iranian side should resume full compliance.”

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