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Iran nuclear talks resume in Vienna as Tehran expands enrichment

Negotiators from Iran, the United States and the European Union resume months-long indirect talks over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal, even as international inspectors have acknowledged the Islamic Republic has begun a new expansion of its uranium enrichment.

The resumption of the Vienna talks, suddenly called yesterday, appears not to include high-level representation from all the countries part of Iran’s 2015 deal with word powers. That comes as Western officials express growing skepticism over a deal to restore the accord and the EU’s top diplomat has warned “the space for additional significant compromises has been exhausted.”

Iran’s top negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, has arrived in Vienna for the talks, Iranian state media reports. Tweets show he has met EU diplomat Enrique Mora. As in other talks, the US won’t directly negotiate with Iran, instead speaking through Mora.

US Special Representative for Iran Rob Malley is also on hand, tweeting yesterday that “our expectations are in check.”

The US hasn’t had direct talks with Iran since then-president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in 2018. Mora has also met Russian Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov, who has represented Moscow’s interests in the talks.

Going into the negotiations, Iran has laid out a maximalist stance. Through its state-run IRNA news agency, Tehran denies that it has abandoned its effort to get the US to delist its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization as a precondition to the talks. Meanwhile, IRNA also quotes Iran’s civilian nuclear chief as saying turned-off surveillance cameras of the International Atomic Energy Agency only will be switched back on once the West abandons an effort to investigate manmade traces of uranium found at previously undisclosed sites at the country.

Those positions could doom the talks. Iranian officials have been trying to offer optimistic assessments of the negotiations while alternating blaming the US for the deadlock, likely worried a collapse of the talks could see its rial currency plunge to new historic lows.

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