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Iran says nuclear talks to restart, as France calls its draft proposals unreasonable

French foreign ministry says no other party finds Iran’s outline acceptable, warns time running out; Iranian media says negotiators to reconvene Thursday

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani is seen leaving the Coburg Palais, venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) meeting aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal, in Vienna on December 3, 2021. (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani is seen leaving the Coburg Palais, venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) meeting aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal, in Vienna on December 3, 2021. (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Proposals submitted by Iran at talks in Vienna last week aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal fall well short of what is needed, France said on Tuesday, adding that time was running out with Iran’s atomic drive making worrying progress.

France’s comments, the latest from a Western power to express dismay about Tehran’s position upon returning to the high-stakes talks, came as Iranian media reported that a new round of negotiations would begin Thursday.

“The proposals presented by Iran last week do not constitute a reasonable basis that is compatible with the objective of a rapid conclusion while respecting the interests of all,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement.

It expressed “disappointment” that the talks failed to move forwards, after diplomats agreed on Friday to pause the discussions for several days to allow consultations in capitals.

Iran’s foreign ministry said Monday it was ready to resume nuclear talks based on the draft proposals it submitted, accusing Western powers of stalling the negotiations.

“None of the delegations present — apart from Iran — wanted the negotiations to restart on this basis,” France said.

“Time is running out then because — five and a half months after Iran halted negotiations — they still have not really resumed,” it added.

This combination of file pictures created on August 9, 2021, shows French President Emmanuel Macron and
Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi. (Stephane De Sakutin and Atta Kenare/Various Sources/AFP)

There was added urgency because “Iran is continuing its nuclear program at an extremely worrying direction,” it said.

Talks resumed last week after a break of nearly six months, but a first round of meetings in Vienna ended with the US accusing Iran of submitting unserious proposals and warning that it would not allow Tehran to “slow walk” the negotiations, which seek to revive the 2015 accord that has been moribund since former US president Donald Trump walked out of it in 2018.

Iran’s Tasnim news agency said the negotiations will resume on Thursday. The timing was agreed upon by Iran’s nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri and European Union envoy Enrique Mora, the report said.

US President Joe Biden has said he is ready to re-enter the agreement so long as Iran meets key preconditions including full compliance with the deal, whose terms it has repeatedly violated by ramping up nuclear activities since Trump walked out.

Israel, which has never ruled out military action against the Iranian nuclear program, has urged world powers to halt the talks.

Western powers, Israel and pro-Washington Arabian peninsula states fear that Iran intends to develop an atomic bomb. Tehran denies this, insisting it only seeks to produce energy for its population.

The nuclear deal promised Iran step-by-step sanctions relief in exchange for restrictions on its atomic work, which would be under the strict supervision of the UN atomic agency.

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