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US says Iran sanctions will only be lifted if nuclear deal conditions met

White House says progress has been made at Vienna talks and it’s a good sign that discussions are continuing

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 Sunday, April 11, 2021, at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility, some 200 miles (322 km) south of the capital Tehran. (IRIB via AP, File)
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 Sunday, April 11, 2021, at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility, some 200 miles (322 km) south of the capital Tehran. (IRIB via AP, File)

The White House said Friday that sanctions on Iran will only be lifted if the country comes back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement.

There were no further details given on the potential conditions that would need to be met for the easing of sanctions.

Spokesperson Jen Psaki said that progress had been made in the Vienna talks between world powers and Iran, and that it was a good sign that the discussions were continuing, the Reuters news agency reported.

The comments came after world powers held a fourth round of high-level talks Friday aimed at bringing the United States back into the nuclear deal with Iran, with both sides signaling a willingness to work out the major stumbling blocks.

Police officers stay in front of the ‘Grand Hotel Wien’ in Vienna, Austria, April 9, 2021, where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran take place. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter)

The talks began in Austria in early April. Russian delegate Mikhail Ulyanov tweeted following Friday’s meeting that “the participants agreed on the need to intensify the process.”

“The delegations seem to be ready to stay in Vienna as long as necessary to achieve the goal,” he wrote.

The US pulled out of the landmark 2015 deal in 2018 after then-president Donald Trump said the pact needed to be renegotiated. The deal had promised Iran economic incentives in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, and the Trump administration reimposed heavy sanctions on the Islamic republic in an unsuccessful attempt to bring Tehran into new talks.

Iran reacted by steadily increasing its violations of the deal by enriching uranium to a greater purity than permitted, stockpiling more enriched uranium than allowed and using more advanced centrifuges, among other moves to try and pressure the powers remaining in the deal — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — for economic relief.

US President Joe Biden says he wants to rejoin the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, but that Iran needs to return to compliance.

The pact is meant to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb, something the country insists it does not want to do, and the government in Tehran has said it is prepared to reverse all of its violations but that Washington must remove all sanctions imposed under Trump.

File: Iran’s nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz, Iran (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

Still unresolved is what Iran’s return to compliance would look like. Delegates to the Vienna talks concede, for example, that Iranian nuclear scientists cannot unlearn the knowledge they acquired in the last three years, but it is not clear whether Iran’s new centrifuges would need to be destroyed, mothballed and locked away, or simply taken offline.

Because the US is currently out of the deal, there were no American representatives at the talks. Diplomats involved are shuttling between the Iranian side and a delegation from Washington elsewhere in Vienna.

Ahead of the talks, a senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the US position, said Washington has laid out the concessions it’s prepared to make and that success or failure now depends on Iran making the political decision to accept those concessions and to return to compliance with the accord.

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