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Iran ‘studying’ EU proposal for meeting of nuclear deal members including US

After Biden said he’s ready to engage with Islamic Republic, Iranian deputy foreign minister says country will respond soon to offer for ‘informal’ gathering of P5+1 powers

In this August 20, 2010, photo, an Iranian security guard walks past a gate of the Bushehr nuclear power plant as its reactor building is seen in background, just outside the city of Bushehr 750 miles (1,245 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
In this August 20, 2010, photo, an Iranian security guard walks past a gate of the Bushehr nuclear power plant as its reactor building is seen in background, just outside the city of Bushehr 750 miles (1,245 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran is weighing a proposal by the European Union for an “informal meeting” of the signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal, including with the United States, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Saturday.

US President Joe Biden indicated Friday he is ready to reengage with Iran on the 2015 nuclear accord, which was abandoned by the Trump administration and which Iran has been avowedly breaching.

“We are studying [EU foreign policy chief] Josep Borrell’s proposal to hold an informal meeting of the 4 + 1 [nuclear deal members] with the United States and Iran, and we are consulting with our partners, including Russia and China, and we will respond to this proposal in the future,” Araqchi said in an interview with state TV, according to Reuters.

“However, we believe a US return to the nuclear accord does not require a meeting and the only way for it is to lift the sanctions,” Araqchi stressed.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi speaking in Tehran, Iran, on October 22, 2013. (AFP/Atta Kenare)

Addressing the Munich Security Conference on Friday, Biden said his administration was ready to reenter talks with the UN Security Council on Tehran’s nuclear program.

“We’re prepared to reengage in negotiations with the P5+1 on Iran’s nuclear program,” he said. The P5+1 countries are the six world powers that negotiated the deal with Iran — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.

Iran, however, has demanded that the US lift sanctions before it returns to talks. It has also rejected discussing other issues, such as its regional activities.

Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have long opposed the agreement and repeatedly warned against the US returning to the deal.

In a statement Friday afternoon, Netanyahu said Israel believes the old agreement will “pave Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal.”

US President Joe Biden speaks virtually to the Munich Security Conference in Germany, from the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 19, 2021. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

On Thursday at the United Nations, the Biden administration notified the Security Council that it had withdrawn Trump’s September 2020 invocation of the so-called “snapback” mechanism under which it maintained that all UN sanctions against Iran had been reimposed. That determination had been vigorously disputed by nearly all other UN members and had left the US isolated at the world body.

Iran has said it will stop part of International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of its nuclear facilities on Sunday if the West doesn’t implement its own commitments under the 2015 deal. The accord has been unraveling since Trump pulled the US out of the agreement.

UN nuclear watchdog head Rafael Grossi arrived late Saturday in Iran for talks on the eve of the deadline.

In this Feb. 3, 2007 file photo, a technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

The deadline, set by Iranian lawmakers, carries the threat of a suspension of some nuclear inspections, stoking international concern about a possible expulsion of UN inspectors.

According to a Friday report, IAEA inspectors found uranium particles at two Iranian nuclear sites that Iran tried to block access to. Iranian authorities had stonewalled the inspectors from reaching the sites for seven months before the inspection, and Iranian officials have failed to explain the presence of the uranium, the Reuters news agency reported, citing diplomats familiar with the UN agency’s work.

The inspections took place in August and September of 2020, the report said. The IAEA keeps its findings secret and only shared the details of the find with a few countries.

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