Iran says ready to renew nuke talks based on its own proposals, rejects ‘blame game’

Tehran says it’s waiting for counteroffers after US, European powers slam its new position as backtracking on previous compromises

Illustrative: Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh during a press conference in Tehran, on February 22, 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
Illustrative: Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh during a press conference in Tehran, on February 22, 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

TEHRAN — Iran said Monday it was ready to resume nuclear talks based on draft proposals it submitted last week, accusing Western powers of stalling negotiations in Vienna.

Last week, the Islamic Republic returned to international talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal after a five-month pause.

On Wednesday, it submitted two draft resolutions on the lifting of US sanctions and nuclear-related measures.

But over the weekend, the United States, as well as European participants in the Vienna talks, accused Iran of backtracking.

A senior US administration official said the proposals “walked back any of the compromises that Iran had floated” during the previous six rounds of negotiations.

The official accused Iran of seeking to “pocket all of the compromises that others — the US in particular — had made and then ask for more.”

The Coburg Palais, the venue of the Iran nuclear talks, is pictured in Vienna, on November 29, 2021. (Vladimir Simicek/AFP)

Even Russia, which has stronger relations with Iran, questioned Iran’s commitment to the process. Israel, an outside observer with a stake in the outcome of the talks, has ramped up its rhetoric.

On Monday, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh hit back.

“Our texts are fully negotiable,” he told a news conference about the draft proposals, also charging that the other parties “want to play a blame game.”

“We are waiting naturally to hear the other side’s opinion concerning these texts and whether they have a real (counter) offer to make to us in writing,” Khatibzadeh added.

The seventh round of nuclear talks ended Friday after five days in Vienna, with delegations returning to their national capitals and expected to go back to Austria next week.

Khatibzadeh said the negotiations were expected to resume “at the end of the week,” without elaborating.

In this image made from April 17, 2021, video released by the Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, state-run TV, various centrifuge machines line the hall damaged on April 11, 2021, at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility, some 200 miles (322 km) south of the capital Tehran. (IRIB via AP, File)

The landmark 2015 nuclear accord was initially agreed on between Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

The deal is aimed at putting curbs on Iran’s nuclear program to ensure it could not develop an atomic weapon, in exchange for sanctions relief for Tehran.

But it began unraveling in 2018 when then-US president Donald Trump, with strong encouragement from then-Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pulled out and reimposed sanctions, while Iran began publicly breaching the deal. Since then, Iran has stepped up its nuclear activities — amassing a stockpile of highly enriched uranium that goes well beyond the bounds of the accord.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Mossad chief David Barnea will push, during their meetings this week in Washington with senior Biden administration officials, for the US to carry out a military strike on Iranian targets, Israel’s three main TV news broadcasts reported Sunday.

According to the reports, which did not cite sources, Gantz and Barnea will urge their American interlocutors to develop a “Plan B” vis-à-vis Iran, seeing the stalled nuclear talks in Vienna as an opportunity to press the US to take a more aggressive stance toward the Islamic Republic.

Along with calling for tougher sanctions, the Israelis will reportedly ask the US to take military action against Iran.

Channel 12 news said the target of a US potential attack would be not a nuclear facility in Iran, but rather a site like an Iranian base in Yemen. The aim of such a strike would be to convince the Iranians to soften their positions at the negotiating table.

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