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Iran Nuclear Talks Pause               12/04 08:51

   

   BERLIN (AP) -- Diplomats negotiating in Vienna to revive Iran's 2015 nuclear 
deal with world powers have paused after five days of talks to consult with 
their governments and will reconvene next week, officials said Friday.

   The European Union official chairing the meeting said there had been some 
progress, but further "convergence" was necessary.

   "We have identified the challenges ahead. Now it is time to consult with 
capitals," EU diplomat Enrique Mora told reporters. "We will be resuming here 
in Vienna next week."

   "We have substantial challenges ahead, time is not unlimited, there is an 
obvious sense of urgency," he added. "But above all we need a certain 
convergence of policy to start negotiations.

   The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, has effectively 
been on life support since the United States pulled out under then-President 
Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran in 2018.

   The remaining signatories to the nuclear deal -- Iran, Russia, China, 
France, Germany and Britain -- have been meeting at the Palais Coburg, a luxury 
hotel where the agreement was signed six years ago. The accord strictly limited 
Iran's enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

   A U.S. delegation headed by the Biden administration's special envoy for 
Iran, Robert Malley, was staying at a nearby hotel and being briefed on the 
talks by diplomats from the other countries.

   The Iranian delegation, appointed by new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, 
this week called for the U.S. to unfreeze $10 billion in assets as an initial 
goodwill gesture.

   Mora said reviving the agreement would require Iran to meet its commitments 
under the accord, and bringing the United States back into "full compliance," 
meaning Washington would need to drop the crippling economic sanctions it 
imposed on Tehran.

   Asked what had been achieved this week, Mora said there had been progress 
"in the sense that we have had a new Iranian delegation, they have engaged in 
negotiations with other delegations."

   "We are incorporating also new policy sensitivities for the new Iranian 
delegations," he said. "But again, the point of departure, the common ground, 
is where we finished" during the last round of talks in June.

   In the United Arab Emirates, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed 
doubt that the new round of the struggling negotiations with Iran would succeed 
but added: "That does not mean the negotiations will not restart, and quickly."

   "I think everyone is aware how important it is to continue discussing not 
just the nuclear deal but other regional issues," Macron said while in Dubai on 
the first day of a two-day Gulf trip.

   France, along with Germany and the U.K., thinks that the 2015 nuclear 
agreement, with minor tweaks, remains the best way forward with Iran. Israel, 
and Gulf countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, have opposed the agreement.

   Since the deal's collapse, Iran started enriching small amounts of uranium 
up to 60% purity; weapons-grade uranium calls for levels of 90%. Iran also 
spins advanced centrifuges barred by the accord, and its uranium stockpile now 
far exceeds the limits set out in the deal.

   The International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors the Islamic 
republic's nuclear program, reported Wednesday that Iran has taken steps to 
enrich uranium up to 20% purity at an underground nuclear facility in Fordo 
where all enrichment activist was supposed to cease.

   Iran maintains its atomic program is not designed to produce weapons. U.S. 
intelligence agencies and international inspectors say Iran had an organized 
nuclear weapons program up until 2003.

   IAEA inspectors are unable to fully monitor Iran's program because Tehran 
has limited their access to its sites.

 
 
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