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Iran sticks to stance as nuclear talks resume, EU, Russia stress urgency

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By Reuters
Talks to salvage Iran nuclear deal resume in Vienna, Russian envoy says
Talks to salvage Iran nuclear deal resume in Vienna, Russian envoy says   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

By Parisa Hafezi and Francois Murphy

VIENNA -Iran’s top negotiator said on Thursday he was sticking to positions Tehran set out when nuclear talks broke off last week, while European Union and Russian envoys called for more urgency as world powers resumed negotiations in Vienna.

The indirect U.S.-Iranian talks in Vienna, in which other diplomats from the remaining parties to a now tattered 2015 deal – France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China – shuttle between them because Tehran refuses direct contact with Washington, aim to get both sides to resume full compliance with the accord.

However, last week’s discussions broke off with European and U.S. officials voicing dismay at sweeping demands by Iran’s new, hardline government under anti-Western President Ebrahim Raisi, whose June election caused a five-month hiatus in the talks.

Western officials have said Iran has abandoned many compromises it had made in the previous six rounds of talks, pocketed those made by others, and demanded more last week.

Iran wants all sanctions re-imposed by the United States in 2018 after then President Donald Trump ditched the deal, to be lifted in a verifiable process.

“Iran underlined that it is seriously continuing the talks based on its previous position,” chief negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani told reporters after an opening meeting with world powers on Thursday.

“Iran is serious about reaching an agreement if the ground is paved (towards a deal)…The fact all sides want the talks to continue shows that all parties want to narrow the gaps.”

Speaking to reporters, Enrique Mora, the European Union’s coordinator for the talks, said the sides “don’t have all the time in the world”.

“What I felt this morning was from…all delegations a renewed sense of purpose in the need to work and to reach an agreement on bringing the JCPOA back to life,” Mora said, using the deal’s formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Russia’s envoy said the short meeting had been constructive and that all sides agreed on the need to restore the accord “successfully and swiftly.”

Under the 2015 accord with major powers, Iran limited its nuclear programme – which the West feared would be used to develop weapons, something Tehran denies – in return for relief from U.S., European Union and U.N. sanctions.

Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh U.S. sanctions, and Iran began violating the nuclear restrictions a year later.

Indicating that Washington may be losing patience, President Joe Biden’s administration is moving to tighten enforcement of sanctions against Iran with the despatch of a senior delegation to the United Arab Emirates next week, the U.S. State Department said as talks resumed on Thursday.