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Iran, United States agree on path back to nuclear deal

FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters, before the beginning of a board of governors meeting, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Vienna, Austria, March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

Iran and world powers held what they described as “constructive” talks on Tuesday and agreed to form working groups to discuss the sanctions Washington might lift and the nuclear curbs Tehran might observe as they try to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

European intermediaries have started shuttling between Iranian and U.S. officials in Vienna as they seek to bring both countries back into compliance with the accord, which lifted sanctions on Iran in return for curbs to its nuclear programme.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, prompting Iran to steadily overstep the accord’s limits on its nuclear program designed to make it harder to develop an atomic bomb – an ambition Tehran denies.

Tuesday’s talks included a meeting of the remaining parties to the original deal: Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia in a group called the Joint Commission that is chaired by the European Union. The United States did not attend.

While neither Washington nor Tehran say they expect any quick breakthroughs from the talks, both they and the EU described the early exchanges in positive terms.

“Constructive Joint Commission meeting. There’s unity and ambition for a joint diplomatic process with two expert groups on nuclear implementation and sanctions lifting,” said EU chief coordinator Enrique Mora said on Twitter.

“I will intensify separate contacts here in Vienna with all relevant parties, including US,” he added.

The two expert-level groups have been given the task of marrying lists of sanctions that the United States could lift with nuclear obligations Iran should meet, and reporting back on Friday, when the Joint Commission will meet again.

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