Don’t sabotage Iran deal with new terms, West tells Russia

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An Iranian flag flies in front of the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria January 15, 2016. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

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VIENNA, March 8 (Reuters) – Western powers on Tuesday warned Russia against destroying a near-concluded deal on bringing the United States and Iran back into line with the 2015 nuclear deal, as that Iran’s chief negotiator should return from consultations in Tehran.

Eleven months of talks to reinstate the deal that lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program have reached their final stage.

But they were complicated by a last-minute request from Russia for guarantees from the United States that Western sanctions targeting Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine would not affect its dealings with Iran.

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Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani is due to return to Vienna on Wednesday after unexpectedly returning to Tehran on Monday for consultations, an Iranian official and a European official said.

The coordinator of the talks, Enrique Mora of the European Union, said on Monday that the time had come for political decisions to end the talks.

“The window of opportunity is closing. We call on all parties to take the necessary decisions to conclude this agreement now, and on Russia not to add foreign conditions to its conclusion,” said Britain, France and Germany in a joint statement to the UN. Board of Governors of 35 nations of the nuclear watchdog.

Iran has sought to lift all sanctions and it wants guarantees from the US that it will not abandon the deal again, after then-US President Donald Trump quit. withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and reimposed the sanctions.

Diplomats have said so far that several differences still need to be ironed out in the talks, including the extent to which sanctions on Iran, including its elite Revolutionary Guards, would be rolled back and the guarantees Washington would give if it did. again returned to the agreement.

Two Western officials said there was now a final text on the table and those issues had been resolved.

While they couldn’t rule out other last-minute surprises, they said the last big open question was whether Russia’s demands were narrow enough and limited to the nuclear cooperation spelled out in the deal, as Moscow’s envoy to the talks told the other parties, or much wider, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described it.

“We are very close to an agreement. It is essential that we conclude while we still can,” French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre told a daily press briefing. . Read more

“We are concerned about the risks that further delays could pose to the possibility of concluding,” she said.

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Moscow threw the potential key in the works on Saturday, just as months of indirect talks between Tehran and Washington in Vienna seemed to be heading towards an agreement, with Lavrov saying Western sanctions against Ukraine had become a stumbling block. for the nuclear deal.

EU’s Mora and Russia’s chief negotiator Mikhail Ulyanov met in Vienna on Tuesday evening to exchange views on “current developments and the way forward,” the Moscow envoy said on Twitter.

Western officials say there is a common interest in averting a nuclear nonproliferation crisis, and they are trying to determine whether what Russia is demanding relates only to its commitments in the Iran deal. It would be manageable, but anything beyond that would be problematic, they say.

The new deal would see Russia take excess highly enriched uranium from Iran to bring Tehran back into compliance with the original agreement’s caps on the purity and amount of enriched uranium it stores.

Rosatom, a state-owned company created by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2007, is key to this and has yet to be added to Western sanctions.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken played down the issue during a visit to Estonia on Tuesday and said Russia and the United States still share a desire to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Read more

EU negotiators from France, Britain and Germany had already temporarily walked out of the talks as they believed they had gone as far as they could and it was now up to the two main protagonists to agree on the outstanding issues.

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additional reporting from Dubai Newsroom, Simon Lewis and Andrius Sytas in Tallinn; Written by John Irish and Dominic Evans; Editing by Jonathan Oatis Editing by Catherine Evans, Raju Gopalakrishnan, Nick Macfie

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