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U.S., France Warn Iran Not To Draw Out Nuclear Talks

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The United States and France have warned Iran not to draw out nuclear talks, a day after an interim agreement for the UN nuclear watchdog to monitor Tehran’s atomic activities expired.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Tehran are holding discussions to extend a temporary agreement on monitoring nuclear activities that expired on June 24.

If it is not extended, six weeks of negotiations in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal could descend into crisis, diplomats said.

“This remains a serious concern,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters at a news conference in Paris alongside his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on June 25.

“The concern has been communicated to Iran and needs to be resolved,” he added.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi is expected to update the UN body’s Board of Governors on the matter at some point on June 25.

The interim monitoring deal was struck in February for three months, then extended by a month on May 24.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump trashed Iran’s nuclear deal with six world powers in 2018 and reimposed economic sanctions on Tehran.

Iran responded by gradually breaching restrictions on centrifuges and uranium enrichment set out in the deal, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

In response to ongoing sanctions and the assassination of a nuclear scientist last year, Iran announced in February that it was scrapping some of the deal’s inspection and monitoring measures.

While the temporary inspections regime eased some concerns, the reduced compliance has made it more difficult to detect a secret nuclear facility or activities, if there were any.

U.S. President Joe Biden is seeking to revive the JCPOA, but a sixth round of indirect talks in Vienna adjourned on June 20 with key issues still unresolved.

The negotiations have largely stalled over technical details and demands from Iran that all sanctions be lifted.

“We still have significant differences with Iran,” Blinken said, warning that if too much time passes the JCPOA will remain moribund.

“There will come a point, yes, where it will be very hard to return back to the standards set by the JCPOA,” Blinken said.

“We haven’t reached that point — I can’t put a date on it — but it’s something that we’re conscious of.”

Blinken warned that if Iran “continues to spin ever more sophisticated centrifuges” and steps up uranium enrichment, it will lessen the “breakout” time needed for Tehran to develop a nuclear bomb.

France — a remaining party to JCPOA alongside Britain, Germany, Russia, and China — also called on Iran to advance the talks.

“We expect the Iranian authorities to take the final decisions — no doubt difficult ones — which will allow the negotiations to be concluded,” Le Drian said at the joint news conference with Blinken.

Separately, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said reviving the nuclear deal with Iran is “within reach.”

Earlier this week, Iran’s outgoing President Hassan Rohani and other top officials signaled progress had been made in negotiations.

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