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Iranian president says nuclear deal possible if sanctions lifted

Comments carried by state TV come a day after foreign minister indicated a willingness to negotiate directly with US

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Ebrahim Raisi speaks in a live televised interview with state-run TV, in Tehran, Iran, on Tuesday, January 25, 2022. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Ebrahim Raisi speaks in a live televised interview with state-run TV, in Tehran, Iran, on Tuesday, January 25, 2022. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said Tuesday that an agreement with the United States over its nuclear deal with world powers is possible if sanctions on Iran are lifted, state TV reported.

Raisi’s comments came a day after Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian signaled a willingness by Iran to engage directly with the US in discussions over the deal if necessary to reach a satisfactory agreement.

“If the parties are ready to lift the oppressive sanctions, it is quite possible any agreement can be reached,” Raisi said in a live broadcast.

Iran and world powers have begun another round of nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria aimed at salvaging the tattered 2015 nuclear deal. The meetings include all the deal’s remaining signatories — Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

The US has participated only indirectly in the ongoing talks because it withdrew from the accord in 2018 under then-US President Donald Trump. He later re-imposed crushing sanctions on Iran, and the Islamic Republic responded by increasing the purity of uranium it enriches and its stockpiles, in breach of the accord.

US President Joe Biden has signaled that he wants to rejoin the deal and the US has said it is prepared to hold direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program, a position it reiterated Monday.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price pauses while speaking during a media briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC, on July 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“We have consistently held the position that it would be much more productive to engage with Iran directly on both [nuclear deal] negotiations and on other issues,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

In 2018, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, banned any negotiations with the US, saying talks with America would only harm Iran.

Earlier this month, however, Khamenei indirectly gave the green light to the Iranian negotiation team to talk with the US and said negotiating and interacting with the enemy does not mean surrender.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week that talks with Iran over its nuclear program are at a “decisive moment,” and warned that Washington and its allies may change tactics if a deal isn’t reached in the coming weeks.

Blinken said that the longer Iran fails to comply with the 2015 Vienna accord — intended to rein in Tehran’s nuclear program — the closer it would get to being able to build an atomic weapon.

Iran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful. But the country’s steps away from its obligations under the 2015 accord have alarmed Israel and other world powers.

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