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Iranian top diplomat accuses US of delaying nuclear deal

Despite earlier signs that agreement on revived accord was near, negotiators have yet to reconvene in Vienna, with hurdles remaining unclear

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, speaks during a joint press conference with his Lebanese counterpart Abdallah Bouhabib in Beirut, Lebanon, on March 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, speaks during a joint press conference with his Lebanese counterpart Abdallah Bouhabib in Beirut, Lebanon, on March 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Iran’s foreign minister claimed Thursday that his country is ready to reach a lasting agreement with world powers, blaming the latest failure to revive Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal on an allegedly “unrealistic vision” by the United States.

Speaking during a visit to Beirut, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian urged the US to stop “wasting time.”

Nuclear negotiations nearly reached completion on the deal earlier this month before Russia demanded that its trade with Iran be exempted from Western sanctions over Ukraine, throwing the process into disarray. Negotiators have yet to reconvene in the Austrian capital, and it is unclear exactly what hurdles lie ahead.

Amir-Abdollahian discussed a range of issues with Lebanese officials, including the tiny Mediterranean country’s parliamentary elections due in May, Russia’s war in Ukraine, and the latest developments on efforts to resurrect the nuclear deal.

“We believe that if there is a realistic American vision in dealing with the situation, we will very soon see the birth of this nuclear deal,” he said. Asked about the main obstacles, he said “some matters are still pending and they are related to lifting the unjust sanctions” imposed on Iran.

“We believe that the United States should move on the right track instead of wasting time,” he said, without elaborating. “We are ready to reach a strong, good, and lasting agreement, as long it does not cross the Islamic Republic of Iran’s red lines.”

Iran enjoys wide influence in Lebanon through the Shiite terror group Hezbollah, which Tehran has funded and armed since the early 1980s. Amir-Abdollahian arrived in Lebanon Thursday from neighboring Syria, where he met with Syrian President Bashar Assad and other top officials.

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, speaks with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, on March 23, 2022, in Damascus, Syria. (SANA via AP)

Iran is a strong ally of Assad and has sent thousands of Iran-backed fighters from around the region, including Hezbollah militants, to bolster Syrian government forces against opponents in the 11-year Syrian conflict.

On Monday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, signaled support for Tehran’s nuclear negotiations to secure sanctions relief — a rare reference to the still-halted talks as world powers near a diplomatic turning point.

And last Friday, news of Tehran’s decision to reprocess a fraction of its stockpile of highly enriched uranium into material that can be used in medicine — instead of enriching further, to weapon-grade levels — appears to signal the negotiations may still see the parties return to Vienna and reach a deal.

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