The State Department spokesman has said the United States is reviewing European Union proposals to take forward talks over renewing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Ned Price, in his Thursday press briefing, said Washington would “convey feedback directly to our European partners” but reiterated a US position that holds “Iranian intransigence, the lack of constructive Iranian engagement” responsible for the failure of talks, in Vienna and more recently in Qatar, to resolve differences over restoring the 2015 agreement, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

The US and Iran take differing views over which US sanctions violate the JCPOA, while Tehran has sought guarantees that Washington would uphold any commitments made in reviving the agreement. Price said the US understanding was that proposals recently made by Joseph Borrell, the European Union foreign policy chief, were based on draft texts drawn up in Vienna by the time talks paused in March – ones Price said the US had been “prepared to accept…for months now.”

Price insisted that Iran had failed to “make that political decision necessary to return to compliance with the JCPOA” and that Washington as preparing “equally for scenarios where we have a JCPOA, scenarios where we don’t have a JCPOA.”

The US and the three European JCPOA signatories – France, Germany and the United States – have expressed growing concern in recent months at the expansion of the Iranian nuclear program, which began breaching JCPOA limits in 2019, the year after the US left the agreement and imposed ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price. FILE PHOTO

Price welcomed the release in Iran on bail of British-American-Iranian environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, thanking Oman for work on his case, and stressed it was among Washington’s “utmost priorities” to secure the “safe return home of wrongfully detained Americans.”

Price denied links between nuclear talks and efforts to secure their release or arrange a prisoner-sway for Iranians detained in the US. He insisted the administration was “very careful not to tie the fates to these wrongfully detained Americans to a potential mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA.”

In another development over Iran Thursday, Deborah Lipstadt, the White House ‘special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism,’ condemned Iran’s leader Ali Khamenei over a tweet she called “unacceptable and dangerous.” Khamenei had criticized the extent of Zionist influence in the US as a “mafia.”

Lebanon ‘emergency’

President Joe Biden Thursday renewed for a further year a US ‘national emergency’ with respect to Lebanon first introduced by George Bush in August 2007. The measure gives the administration special powers to impose economic sanctions, with Biden’s statement citing “the actions of certain persons to undermine Lebanon’s legitimate and democratically elected government or democratic institutions.”

Biden expressed concern over Iran’s arms transfers to Hezbollah, the Shia party and armed militant group sanctioned by many countries, that has been for decades in conflict with Israel. The US has a variety of sanctions against Lebanon, many introduced under executive orders but also by statute.

Iran announced Friday it had appointed Mohsen Naziri Asl as its new ambassador to the United Nations bodies in Vienna, including the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA. Asl has previously served as ambassador to UN bodies in Geneva, while his new post will take in the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is based in the Austrian capital.

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