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US responds to Iran nuclear deal proposal, says pact close, but ‘not there yet’

Tehran says it has begun reviewing Washington’s offer to return to 2015 agreement, hours after PM Lapid warns accord will provide Islamic Republic funds to support terror

In this photo released on Thursday, August 11, 2022, by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani speaks in Tehran, Iran. (Iranian Foreign Ministry via AP)
In this photo released on Thursday, August 11, 2022, by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani speaks in Tehran, Iran. (Iranian Foreign Ministry via AP)

Iran has received Washington’s response to its proposals on a final European Union draft for the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal, Tehran’s foreign ministry said Wednesday.

The announcement comes a day after Washington said Iran had agreed to ease key demands that had held up the revival of the 2015 deal trashed by former US president Donald Trump, boosting hopes for the restoration of an agreement its supporters say will keep Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability.

That came one day after Tehran criticized the US for what it said was a slow response to its proposals.

Tehran “received this evening via the [EU] coordinator, the response from the US government over the Islamic Republic of Iran’s opinions on the outstanding issues in the negotiations to lift sanctions,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said.

“The process of carefully reviewing the US opinions has begun and the Islamic Republic of Iran will announce its opinion in this context to the coordinator after it completes its review,” Kanaani added, without providing further details.

Iran had last week sent its proposals over the final draft sent on August 8 by the EU, which has coordinated talks in Vienna on reviving the pact.

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani, at right, arrives at the Coburg Palais, the venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) talks in Vienna on August 4, 2022. (Alex Halada/AFP)

Shortly after Tehran’s announcement, Washington confirmed it had responded to Iran’s proposals.

“As you know, we received Iran’s comments on the EU’s proposed final text through the EU,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

“Our review of those comments has now concluded. We have responded to the EU today.”

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby declined to characterize the administration’s response to the EU, but noted “we are closer now than we were even just a couple of weeks ago because Iran made a decision to make some concessions.”

“We’re not there yet,” Kirby. “And because we’re not there yet, I think we’re just going to be relatively careful here about how much detail we put out there.”

According to an anonymous US official, Iran’s draft does not include their long-held demand that the US lift the terrorism designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and that the International Atomic Energy Agency close its investigation into unexplained traces of uranium at three undeclared sites.

The 2015 agreement between Iran and six world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the US — gave the Islamic Republic sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

The deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, was designed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon — something the country has denied it is pursuing.

Iran’s announcement comes as its arch-nemesis Israel has piled pressure on Western countries to halt talks on reviving the agreement, warning against the consequences of returning to the accord.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid speaks about Iran at a security briefing for the foreign press at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, Wednesday, August 24, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

“On the table right now is a bad deal. It would give Iran $100 billion a year,” Prime Minister Yair Lapid told journalists Wednesday.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu also voiced his staunch opposition to the deal on Wednesday, saying that the emerging new agreement is even worse than before.

“The terrible deal with Iran… casts a heavy shadow on our security and our future,” Netanyahu told reporters in Tel Aviv.

Iran has denied any nefarious intentions and claims its nuclear program is designed for peaceful purposes, though it has recently been enriching uranium to levels that international leaders say have no civil use.

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