U.S. Iran Envoy Warns Tehran May Be Delaying Talks To Advance Nuclear Program

The top U.S. envoy on Iran says talks to revive the moribund the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers are at a “critical phase,” warning that Iran may be engaging in delaying tactics to advance its nuclear program.

Rob Malley made the comments on October 25 as the top European diplomat coordinating international talks to revive the agreement is set to meet with his Iranian counterpart in Brussels this week for discussions on restarting the negotiations over the accord.

Speaking after a weeklong trip to European and Gulf Arab nations, Malley told reporters that the window of opportunity to negotiate a return to the Iran nuclear deal “will not be open forever.”

“At some point, the JCPOA will have been so eroded because Iran would have made advances that cannot be reversed,” Malley said, referring to the deal formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Former President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the international accord in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions, despite Iran’s compliance with the deal. In response, Tehran has gradually breached limits imposed by the pact, including on uranium enrichment, refining it to higher purity, and installing advanced centrifuges.

President Joe Biden came to office offering to revive the deal, but six rounds of indirect talks with Iran in Vienna that began in April failed to reach agreement. The talks were paused in June after Iran’s presidential election that brought hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi to power.

The main sticking points center around Tehran’s demand for a broad lifting of U.S. sanctions and technical details about how Tehran will return to compliance. In recent months, there have been repeated delays as EU mediators and Iran discuss the terms of a return to negotiations, but no concrete date has been agreed.

While time is running thin for Iran and the United States to resume compliance, Malley stressed that the Washington is interested in diplomacy even as it has “other options” to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Meanwhile, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani tweeted that he will be in Brussels on October 27 “to continue our talks on result-oriented negotiations.”

“Iran is determined to engage in negotiations that would remove unlawful and cruel sanctions in a full and effective manner, secure normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran, and provide credible guarantees for no further reneging (by the United States),” he also wrote.

EU spokesman Peter Stano said the meeting would involve EU envoy Enrique Mora, who visited Tehran earlier this month to push Iran to restart full negotiations.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

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