France FM warned Iran on nuclear deal

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PARIS: France’s foreign minister warned Iran on Friday not to come to the next round of talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with a “sham” negotiating stance, a day after Paris urged the board of the UN atomic watchdog to send Iran a tough message.

Tehran had earlier responded to Paris by saying the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which verifies Tehran’s compliance with the 2015 deal with world powers limiting Tehran’s nuclear programme, must be “free of any political conduct”.

According to Reuters, the statements highlighted rising tension before the United States, Iran and world powers resume indirect negotiations on reviving the deal on Nov 29, five days after a meeting of the IAEA’s Board of Governors.

Western diplomats say time is running low to resurrect the pact, which then-US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, angering Iran and dismaying the other world powers involved — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

Six rounds of indirect talks were held between April and June. The negotiations were interrupted after the election of a new Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, who has said Iran will not back down in the talks.

Paris warned Tehran over what US and European diplomats view as unrealistic demands, including a call for all US and EU sanctions imposed since 2017 to be dropped.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Le Monde newspaper Paris wanted first to establish whether talks would resume where they ended in June.

Under the 2015 deal, Iran limited its nuclear programme in exchange for relief from sanctions. Trump’s 2018 decision to reimpose US sanctions prompted Tehran to begin breaching its nuclear restrictions.

In Tehran, according to AFP, the Iranian government on Friday criticised as “illegitimate” a Western statement that assured Arab allies their security interests would be taken into account during talks aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal.

Iran’s neighbours are concerned about concessions that could be made to the Islamic republic in the negotiations that are due to resume in the Austrian capital Vienna on November 29.

In a joint statement issued after talks on Thursday with Gulf states, Egypt and Jordan, the United States and the so-called E3 of Britain, France and Germany welcomed their “efforts to de-escalate tensions”.

They condemned Iran’s “destabilising activities in the region” including the use of ballistic missiles and drones, while affirming “their determination to continue to address broader security concerns of the region”.

Iran’s foreign ministry dismissed the statement on Friday.

“This spectacle of a meeting and statement are so fabricated and illegitimate that they are not worth responding to,” said its spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh.

“The US government, which is responsible for the current situation after withdrawing from the nuclear deal, is once again trying to provoke a crisis and conduct a propaganda campaign against Iran,” he said in a statement.

In 2018, under then president Donald Trump, the United States unilaterally pulled out of the deal that gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

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