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Iran blames US for delays to revive nuclear deal

By AFP
April 19, 2022

TEHRAN: Iran on Monday said an agreement with world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal was still not in sight, blaming the United States for the delay.

"More than one issue is still pending between Iran and the United States," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said. "Messages (from Washington) sent through (European Union coordinator Enrique) Mora these past weeks... are far from providing solutions that could lead to an accord," he told reporters.

Iran has been engaged in efforts to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia directly, and the United States indirectly since April 2021.

Mora, who coordinates the indirect US-Iran talks, visited Tehran last month for talks with Iranian officials, and later went to Washington. At the time, Mora said he hoped to close the gaps remaining in the arduous negotiations.

The agreement fell apart in 2018, when then-president Donald Trump withdrew the United States and reimposed crippling economic sanctions. Iran, in response, began rolling back on most of its commitments under the accord. Khatibzadeh on Monday blamed Washington for delays to restore the nuclear deal.

"The US are responsible for these delays, because they are taking their time to give replies" that would be suitable for Iran, he said. Earlier this month, Khatibzadeh’s counterpart in the State Department Ned Price said it was Tehran that was not giving way to make a deal possible, but that Washington still believed there was "opportunity to overcome our remaining differences."

Key among unresolved issues is a demand by Tehran that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the ideological arm of Iran’s military, be removed from a US terror blacklist. Washington has resisted the move.

Meanwhile, Iran's armed forces will target Israel's heart if it makes "the slightest move" against the Islamic Republic, President Ebrahim Raisi told a military parade on Monday, amid stalled talks between Tehran and world powers to revive a 2015 nuclear pact.

"You must know that if you try to take any action against the Iranian nation... our armed forces will not leave you in peace," Raisi said, during a military parade to mark National Army Day.

His comments come days after he warned neighbouring Iraq against using its territory for activities that disrupt Iran’s security. Last month, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the military’s ideological arm, said it fired a dozen ballistic missiles at a "strategic" site in Arbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous northern Kurdistan region, claiming they were being used by Israel.

However, Arbil governor Oumid Khouchnaw dismissed as "baseless" the presence of Israeli sites in and around the city. "There are no Israeli sites in the region," he said at the time. Also last month, Israel hosted talks attended by top Arab diplomats and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, saying the meeting would send a strong message to Tehran.

"This new architecture, the shared capabilities we are building, intimidates and deters our common enemies -- first and foremost Iran and its proxies," Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said at the end of the meeting in southern Israel.

The meeting came as world powers have been negotiating a way to revive a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, to rein in its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

Israel is adamantly opposed to the original deal and any effort to restore it. The accord started to unravel in 2018 when then US president Donald Trump left the deal and re-instated sanctions, leading Iran to in turn step up its nuclear programme again.

On Thursday, the UN atomic energy watchdog said Iran has started to make components for machines used to enrich uranium at a new workshop in Natanz, the country’s main nuclear site.