Iran’s Raisi says Tehran serious about nuclear talks if US removes sanctions

Iranian president says his country is ‘definitely after a good agreement,’ amid off-on negotiations in Vienna

In this photo released by the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a live interview in Tehran, Iran, broadcast on state-run TV on Monday, October 18, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
In this photo released by the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a live interview in Tehran, Iran, broadcast on state-run TV on Monday, October 18, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said Saturday that Tehran was serious in its discussions with world powers aimed at salvaging a tattered 2015 nuclear deal, the official IRNA news agency reported.

“We are serious in the negotiations and if the other side is also serious about the removal of the US sanctions, we will achieve a good agreement. We are definitely after a good agreement,” IRNA quoted Raisi as saying, according to the Reuters news agency.

Israel warned the United States on Friday that regional stability would be undermined if Iran is granted sanctions relief. The US, meanwhile is moving to tighten the sanctions.

Talks in Vienna on Thursday ended an hour after resuming following a few days’ pause, with tensions high after Tehran made demands a week earlier that European countries strongly criticized.

The meeting of all the deal’s remaining signatories — Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — was chaired by European Union diplomat Enrique Mora.

However, negotiations between Iran and world powers are moving ahead, a European official and an Iranian media report said Friday.

When asked if the EU is optimistic about the new Iranian negotiating team’s position, a senior European Union official told Reuters, “my impression is that we are simply advancing in quite the logical way of the negotiation.”

A person walks in front of Palais Coburg where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, on December 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Gruber)

Diplomats from Britain, France, and Germany had urged Tehran to come back with “realistic proposals” after the Iranian delegation made numerous demands that the accord’s other parties deemed unacceptable.

Iran’s Nournews website, which is affiliated with Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, reported that “while nuclear talks are going on in Vienna, constructive interactions had taken place between the [International Atomic Energy] Agency and Iranian officials in Vienna.”

“Details will be announced soon,” the Iranian report added, according to Reuters.

The US has participated indirectly in the ongoing talks because it withdrew from the accord in 2018 under then-US president Donald Trump. US President Joe Biden has signaled that he wants to rejoin the deal.

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

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-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pulled out and reimposed sanctions, while Iran began publicly breaching the deal.

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)

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.

Iran has also restricted monitors from the United Nations atomic watchdog from accessing its nuclear facilities, raising concerns about what the country is doing out of view.

Meanwhile, Israeli and American military leaders are set to discuss possible military drills to practice destroying Iranian nuclear facilities in a potential worst-case scenario, a senior US official said.

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