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EU Envoy's Trip To Tehran On Nuclear Pact 'Better Than Expected,' But U.S. Airs Doubts

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High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell in Brussels

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says obstacles to continuing talks between Iran and several global powers to revive a nuclear pact have been removed, making it possible that negotiations could be relaunched soon.

But U.S. officials quickly poured cold water on hopes of imminent progress by saying it was incumbent on Tehran to commit to an agreement.

Speaking on May 13 after EU envoy Enrique Mora returned from Tehran and reported better-than-expected progress to revive the talks after a two-month deadlock, Borrell said Iran's response had been "positive enough."

"It has gone better than expected. The negotiations were stalled, and now they have been reopened," Borrell said as he attended a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations in Germany, adding that he sees the prospect of "reaching a final agreement."

Iran has been engaged for a year in negotiations with Britain, Germany, France, Russia, and China directly -- and the United States indirectly -- to revive the deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The pact collapsed in 2018 when former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States and imposed crushing sanctions on Iran.

A revamped deal was reportedly close in March, but the talks in Vienna then abruptly stalled in April with Tehran and Washington blaming each other for failing to take the necessary political decisions to settle remaining issues.

Mora was in Tehran this week in what some described as the last chance to salvage the 2015 accord.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Mora’s trip had been "an opportunity to focus on initiatives to resolve the remaining issues".

"A good and reliable agreement is within reach if the United States makes a political decision and adheres to its commitments," he said.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson responded by saying the burden was on Tehran to commit to a deal.

"Iran needs to decide whether it insists on extraneous conditions and whether it wants to conclude a deal quickly," the spokesperson said on condition of anonymity. "It's now up to Iran."

In response to a question about Tehran's reported pressure in the negotiations to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps from a U.S. list of designated foreign terrorists, the spokesperson said, "We are not negotiating in public but the bottom line is that there is no deal and no certainty of one."

Other Western diplomats have suggested Washington has signaled little chance it will agree to remove that branch of Iran's security forces from the list anytime soon.

Iran has long denied that it has tried to secretly develop nuclear weapons, saying its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes. Since the deal collapsed, however, Tehran has vastly expanded its nuclear work.

With reporting by dpa and Reuters
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