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US State Department says Iran nuclear talks no longer a focus for White House

Ned Price explains Tehran has ‘made very clear’ its unwillingness to conclude a deal, with US turning its attention to Iranian protesters confronting regime

US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during a news conference at the State Department, March 10, 2022, in Washington, DC. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Pool/AFP)
US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during a news conference at the State Department, March 10, 2022, in Washington, DC. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Pool/AFP)

State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Wednesday that the Iran nuclear deal was “not our focus right now,” instead vowing to “support” the “bravery and courage” of Iranian protesters.

Asked by a reporter whether the US was still interested in pursuing the nuclear talks, Price responded “That’s not our focus right now. I think it is very clear, the Iranians have made very clear that this is not a deal that they have been prepared to make.”

“A deal certainly does not appear imminent. Iran’s demands are unrealistic; they go well beyond the scope of the JCPOA. Nothing we’ve heard in recent weeks suggests they have changed their position,” Price told the department briefing.

Instead, Price said US focus “is on the remarkable bravery and courage that the Iranian people are exhibiting through their peaceful demonstrations, through their exercise of their universal right to freedom of assembly and to freedom of expression.”

Iranians have taken to the streets following the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was in morality police custody following her arrest for not wearing her head covering properly. The Iranian regime denies any responsibility for her death.

Price said the US would focus on “shining a spotlight on what [protesters are] doing and supporting them in the ways we can.”

A picture obtained by AFP outside Iran, shows people gathering next to a burning motorcycle in the capital Tehran on October 8, 2022. (AFP)

The 2015 nuclear 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 trashed by the Trump administration in 2018, which then reimposed unilateral economic sanctions against the Islamic republic.

In August, the Biden administration appeared to come close to renewing the deal, but discussions hit a dead end over Iran’s demand that the IAEA halt its probe of unaccounted-for traces of enriched uranium discovered at three sites in Iran.

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

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

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