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U.S. Urges Iran To Engage In Dialogue After European Powers Back Off Censure Plan

The director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi (file photo)

The United States said it hopes Iran will “engage in constructive dialogue” after Washington’s European partners agreed to drop a plan to censure Tehran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting in Vienna.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price on March 4 said Washington was "pleased" the Europeans withdrew the measure criticizing Iran, after Tehran reportedly gave some "encouraging signs" about the future of the landmark 2015 nuclear pact.

"We will look forward with strong interest for Iran's willingness to engage in a way that leads to credible, concrete progress," Price told reporters.

"We have stated very clearly that what we are prepared to do is to engage in constructive dialogue. That is the offer that's been on the table," Price said.

Tensions have soared since 2018 when the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear accord with Iran and reimposed crippling economic sanctions to force Iran to renegotiate the pact.

Iran retaliated by rolling back a number of key commitments to the deal.

The new administration of President Joe Biden has expressed intent to rejoin the agreement, but it insists Tehran must return to full compliance.

Iran, which has always denied pursuing nuclear weapons, first wants sanctions to be lifted.

France, Britain, and Germany had planned to introduce the resolution, with the support of the United States, denouncing Iran's suspension of some IAEA inspections linked to the accord.

The Europeans dropped the plan amid efforts by IAEA chief Rafael Grossi to reach a compromise with Iran.

"We have decided to not present the resolution," the German Foreign Ministry said. "Iran must now prove that it is serious in its wish to fully relaunch" the nuclear deal.

One diplomat cited signs of "good faith" by the Iranians as key to the decision to drop the resolution, which had not been formally submitted.

Grossi announced earlier on March 4 that Iran had agreed to hold a series of meetings with the UN nuclear watchdog to "clarify a number of outstanding issues."

A French diplomat said "encouraging signs" from the Iranians would not have been achieved "if the threat of the [European] resolution hadn't been maintained until the end."

The diplomat said it remained possible that an EU-proposed meeting of the remaining deal participants -- France, Germany, Britain, Russia, China, and Iran -- could take place within two weeks, potentially in Brussels.

Russia and China also hailed the Europeans' decision. Mikhail Ulyanov, Moscow's ambassador to the IAEA, said the resolution "could have led to uncontrolled escalation."

Iran welcomed the decision as well.

"Today's developments can keep open the path of diplomacy initiated by Iran and the IAEA," a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry said.

Iran has previously said the time was not right for a proposed European-led meeting of all parties, including the United States, calling instead for Biden first to lift sanctions.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on March 3 that the United States would ease sanctions as part of Iran returning to the deal.

"We've been very clear that Iran has to come back into compliance with its obligations under the nuclear agreement, and if it does, we'll do the same thing," Blinken told PBS TV. "And that would involve, if they do it, some sanctions relief."

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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