US says it’s ‘getting closer’ to a revived nuclear deal with Iran

White House dismisses possibility Russia sanctions will hinder talks in Vienna, saying Washington and Moscow share common goal of preventing Tehran from obtaining nukes

TV cameras in front of the 'Grand Hotel Vienna,' where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, on June 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter)
TV cameras in front of the 'Grand Hotel Vienna,' where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, on June 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter)

The United States is “getting closer” to reaching a new nuclear deal with Iran, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

Speaking to reporters during a daily press briefing, Psaki noted that there are “important components” that both sides have yet to agree on.

She dismissed questions regarding the possibility of US sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine hindering talks in Vienna, saying both Moscow and Washington share a common goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Her comments came several hours after a meeting in the Latvian capital of Riga between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

During the meeting, which also focused on the situation in Ukraine, Lapid noted Israel’s concerns about the nuclear negotiations potentially at the point of a breakthrough, saying Israel has well-known differences with the US on a deal, even if they share the end goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

“It’s no secret we have our differences on this, but it’s a conversation between allies that have a common goal, which is preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold country, and to stop Iran’s ability to spread terror and instability all around the world,” Lapid said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Riga, Latvia, on March 7, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP)

Blinken responded that both Israel and the United States are “united and committed to the proposition that Iran must never obtain a nuclear weapon.”

The foreign minister said the latest events in Ukraine are a reminder that Israel cannot rely on others to defend itself.

Noting that Israel reserves the right to act militarily against Iran’s nuclear program, Lapid said, “This war is a reminder to Israel. We have friends, we have allies, but our security must always be in our hands only.”

The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, signed in 2015, secured sanctions relief for Iran in return for strict curbs on its nuclear program.

The agreement was between Iran on one side and Germany, China, the United States, France, Britain, and Russia on the other.

The agreement unraveled when former US president Donald Trump withdrew from it, with Israeli encouragement, in 2018.

The Bushehr nuclear power plant outside the southern city of Bushehr, Iran. (AP Photo/Mehr News Agency, Majid Asgaripour, File)

Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium has now reached more than 15 times the limit set out in the 2015 accord, the UN’s IAEA nuclear watchdog said last week.

The coming days are seen as critical by the West, which believes that the agreement could soon be irrelevant at the rate Iran is making nuclear advances.

Several observers believe that the West could leave the negotiating table and chalk the deal up to a failure if a compromise is not reached by this weekend.

Among the problem points, Tehran is calling for the closure of the IAEA’s investigation into the presence of nuclear material at undeclared sites.

IAEA Director General Rafael Gross, who has said the agency would “never abandon” its attempts to get Iran to clarify the previous presence of nuclear material at the sites, will travel to Iran on Saturday to meet with officials from the country.

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