Nuclear talks in jeopardy as US calls latest Iran missive a ‘rollback’

The official declined to elaborate on what the Iranians had offered, but added, “based on their response, we seem to be backing down.”

A European diplomat agreed with this negative assessment and said the Iranian response seemed “negative and unreasonable”. Another person familiar with the situation simply added that the Iranian response “didn’t look good at all”.

It’s unclear how much longer the various parties involved will be willing to continue negotiating, although neither Iran nor the United States are likely to rule diplomacy outright. The Biden administration official did not respond to questions about whether the United States would pull out of the talks given the latest Iranian response.

The politics of the nuclear talks is sensitive both in Iran, where extremists have gained ascendancy in the Islamist regime that rules the country, and in the United States. Earlier Thursday, for example, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to President Joe Biden raising concerns about certain aspects of the negotiations.

With the midterm elections in the United States, talks may be stalled until those races end in November.

Iranian officials could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday evening.

The 2015 nuclear deal lifted a series of U.S. and other sanctions against Iran in exchange for severe curbs on its nuclear program. In 2018, then-President Donald Trump scrapped the deal, saying it was too weak. He reimposed the sanctions, and in the years that followed Iran resumed much of its nuclear program.

Biden sought to re-enter the deal, but the negotiations — which were largely mediated by European officials — were tense and drawn-out.

Earlier this summer, EU officials presented what they called a “final text” of the roadmap reinstating the 2015 deal. But Iran has raised concerns about some of its elements, and the United States has made its own counter-suggestions.

In an earlier response to the United States, Iran raised issues related to economic guarantees. Iran fears, among other things, that even if an agreement is revived, foreign companies will still consider it too risky to invest in it, especially if there is a possibility that a future Republican president of the United States will give up. new to the deal.

Washington and Tehran have also tangled on other issues, such as Biden’s reluctance to remove Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from a terrorist blacklist.

Iran has also expressed concern over a separate investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, into traces of nuclear material found at some Iranian sites.

This week Iran also expanded the use of advanced IR-6 centrifuges at its underground Natanz nuclear site, according to an IAEA report seen by Reuters, having already used them at the Natanz surface plant as well. than in its site at Fordow.

IR-6 centrifuges are powerful machines that can enrich uranium to higher levels much faster than the more basic IR-1 centrifuges. Under the original 2015 nuclear deal, Iran is only allowed to use the basic IR-1 centrifuges.

A regular meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors is due to begin in Vienna on September 12. The 35-member body will examine, among other things, recent progress in Iran’s nuclear program.

Stephanie Liechtenstein reported from Vienna, Austria.


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