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Iran Upbeat on Nuclear Talk Progress   04/17 10:34

   

   BERLIN (AP) -- A senior Iranian official offered a cautiously upbeat 
assessment of progress in talks aimed at bringing the United States back into 
world powers' 2015 deal with Tehran on its nuclear program, saying Saturday 
that a "new understanding" appears to be taking shape.

   Iran has been negotiating with the five powers that remain in the agreement 
-- France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China -- in Vienna over the past two 
weeks. An American delegation also has been in Vienna, but not talking directly 
to Iran.

   Iran's deputy foreign minister said the talks had entered a new phase, 
adding that Iran had proposed draft agreements that could be a basis for 
negotiations.

   "We think that the talks have reached a stage where parties are able to 
begin to work on a joint draft," Abbas Araghchi told Iranian state television. 
"It seems that a new understanding is taking shape, and now there is agreement 
over final goals."

   "The path is better known, but it will not be easy path," Araghchi added. 
"It does not mean that differences of views have come to the end."

   The accord is aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, 
something it says it doesn't want to do. It restricted Iran's nuclear program 
in return for relief from U.S. and international sanctions. In 2018, 
then-President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. unilaterally out of the accord, 
opting for restored and additional American sanctions.

   Since then, Iran has steadily violated restrictions in the deal, like the 
amount of enriched uranium that it can stockpile and the purity to which it can 
be enriched. Tehran's moves have been calculated to pressure the other 
participants to do more to offset crippling U.S. sanctions. President Joe Biden 
has said he wants to bring the U.S. back into the deal but that Iran must 
reverse its violations.

   Additional complications have arisen: last weekend, Iran's Natanz nuclear 
facility was sabotaged. The attack was widely suspected of being carried out by 
Israel, which opposes the nuclear deal, though authorities there have not 
commented.

   Iran responded by announcing it would increase uranium enrichment to 60% 
purity, far higher than ever before, and install more advanced centrifuges at 
the Natanz facility. On Wednesday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei 
dismissed offers seen so far in Vienna as "not worth looking at." Still, he 
said he had confidence in his negotiators, and Iran's Saturday readout seemed 
upbeat.

   Diplomats from the six countries participating told expert-level working 
groups on sanctions-lifting and nuclear issues "to continue their activities on 
Saturday afternoon, Sunday and next week" to make further progress, Russian 
representative Mikhail Ulyanov tweeted.

   Enrique Mora, the European Union official who chaired the talks, tweeted 
that "progress has been made in a far from easy task. We need now more detailed 
work."

 
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