Iranian delegation in Vienna nuclear talks. November 29, 2021

Iranian delegation in Vienna nuclear talks. November 29, 2021

US, Europe Dismayed As Iran Nuclear Talks Adjourn In Vienna

12/3/2021

Nuclear talks over Iran's nuclear deal broke off until next week as European officials voiced dismay Friday at sweeping demands by Iran's hardline government.

Iran suspended talks in June after President Ebrahim Raisi’s election saying it needed time to form a new government, but it kept delaying its return, heightening suspicions among US and European officials that Iran is playing for time while advancing its nuclear program.

"Iran right now does not seem to be serious about doing what's necessary to return to compliance, which is why we ended this round of talks in Vienna," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Reuters Next Conference.

"If the path to a return to compliance with the agreement turns out to be a dead-end, we will pursue other options," he added, without elaborating.

But the US has been making this threat for weeks, saying that it will wait for the new round of talks in Vienna to see if Tehran is serious.

Diplomats said the Iranian delegation had proposed sweeping changes to a text that was painstakingly negotiated in previous rounds and that European officials had said was 70-80% finished.

'DISAPPOINTMENT AND CONCERN'

"Over five months ago, Iran interrupted negotiations. Since then, Iran has fast-forwarded its nuclear program. This week, it has back-tracked on diplomatic progress made," senior officials from France, Britain and Germany said in a statement, adding that Iran was demanding "major changes" to the text.

It is "unclear how these new gaps can be closed in a realistic time frame", they added.

The three European powers expressed "disappointment and concern" at Iran's demands, some of which they said were incompatible with the deal's terms or went beyond them.

The 2015 agreement imposed strict limits on Iran's uranium enrichment activities, extending the time it would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, to at least a year from around two to three months. Most experts say that period is now shorter than before the deal.

Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, saying it only wants to master nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

After more than two years of Iranian adherence to the core curbs, however, then-President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018, calling it too soft on Tehran, and reimposed painful US economic sanctions on Tehran.

Tehran retaliated from 2019 by breaching many of the deal's limits on enrichment and other restrictions, advancing well beyond them. With the deal's nuclear benefits now badly eroded, some Western officials say there is little time left before the foundation of the deal is damaged beyond repair.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he thought it likely the current round of talks would not succeed and appeared to look beyond them, hinting at involving more nations, such as Gulf Arab states, in a wider discussion if the Vienna talks fail.

"I think it's very difficult to find an agreement if the Gulf countries, Israel, all those whose security is directly affected, don't take part," he told reporters in Dubai. Macron had expressed the same stance last year.

FIRM STANCE

Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani's uncompromising stance is that since Washington left the deal, it should make the first move by lifting all sanctions imposed on Tehran since then, even those unrelated to Tehran's nuclear activities.

However, he left the door ajar for more talks by saying European nations could propose their own drafts for discussion, Iranian state media reported.

However, more talks would mean the talks stretching into 2022 as the holiday season approaches and more time for Iran to add to its stockpile of highly enriched uranium.

With reporting by Reuters

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