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Iran seeks ‘creative way’ to reach denuclearization deal after Russia demand

TEHRAN, IRAN – A top Iranian official said on Monday that his country was looking for “creative ways” to restore the nuclear deal with world powers after Russia’s foreign minister linked sanctions against Moscow over the war with Ukraine with ongoing negotiations.

The tweet by Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s powerful Supreme National Security Council, offers the first high-level acknowledgment of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s demands.

“Vienna participants act and react based on preferences and that is understandable,” Shamkhani writes. “Our interactions … are also based solely on the interests of the people. We are therefore evaluating new factors relevant to the negotiations and will accordingly look for innovative ways. created to promote a solution.”

Shamkhani later tweeted critical of the United States; Before that, he avoided mentioning Russia directly.

In recent days, negotiators on all sides in Vienna have signaled that a potential deal is close to being reached as the head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agrees with Iran to pay its bills. answers longstanding questions from the watchdog about Tehran’s program.

But Mr. Lavrov on Saturday said he wanted “assurances at the foreign ministerial level at least” that US sanctions would not affect Moscow’s relations with Tehran. That has raised questions about the months of negotiations held so far on reviving the 2015 deal, in which Iran agreed to drastically limit uranium enrichment in return for the lifting of sanctions. economy.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Lavrov’s request “inappropriate” because the nuclear deal and sanctions against Moscow in the Ukraine war were “completely different”. The United States under then-U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018, triggering years of tension and attacks across the Mideast.

Blinken told CBS’s “Face the Nation” program: “Getting out of the deal was one of the worst mistakes we’ve made in recent years. It left the whole of Iran’s nuclear program under our control. I put it in a box”. “And so if there’s a way back to effectively doing that deal again, it’s in our interest to do that and we’re working the way we say it is. is in Russia’s interest.”

Speaking on Monday in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that “peaceful nuclear cooperation” between China, Iran and Russia should not be limited by sanctions. China and Russia are part of the deal, which includes Germany, Britain and France. The US has not been involved in negotiations since the withdrawal.

“So far, Russia has shown a constructive approach to reaching a collective agreement in Vienna and we interpret what they say in this framework,” he said. “We will wait for them to provide more details in Vienna.”

He added Iran and the US continue to negotiate a possible prisoner swap, like the one that accompanies the previous nuclear deal.

“The remaining differences are less than fingers – if no one adds new problems,” says Khatibzadeh.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian also weighed in, stating that Tehran “will not allow any foreign factors to affect the country’s national interests in the Vienna talks,” according to state news agency IRNA. .

Meanwhile, the state-owned, English-language Tehran Times on Monday published an article suggesting that the draft nuclear deal in Vienna would allow Iran to “keep advanced nuclear materials and centrifuges in country.”

This is “an inherent form of assurance to ensure that its nuclear program is fully reversible if the US continues its commitments”, the newspaper said, without providing a any source of information.

The 2015 nuclear deal saw Iran put advanced centrifuges into storage under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, while keeping the enrichment at 3.67% purity and Its stockpile stands at just 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of uranium.

As of February 19, the IAEA said that Iran’s stockpile of all enriched uranium was nearly 3200 kilograms (7,055 pounds). Some have been enriched up to 60% purity – a short technical step from the weapon grade of 90%.

Speaking from Vienna, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said any nuclear deal that could be extended would be a “very complicated agreement” with several steps and sequences. He also acknowledged his inspectors faced a challenging task to fill the void left by Iran in keeping IAEA surveillance tapes and restricting access amid tensions.

Inspectors have to make sure everything is “calculated to every gram,” Grossi said.

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Gambrell is reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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